He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you; 

But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6: 8

When I watch high level athletes competing in their sport, I am always amazed at the ease with which they perform so many very hard tasks under the pressure of the competitive environment. There is grace and balance in their movements that is well beyond what most of us are capable of achieving.  It is this same degree of balance that God wants us to seek in our walks with Him. Yet, it is even more important in the spiritual realm than it is in the athletic. For in our spiritual lives the stakes are much higher than any national championship, and the opposition is more focused and considerably more fierce.

Micah points out three characteristics to hold onto as we seek to live out God’s will in our world. Each of them is important; however, our most effective approach to life is found by embracing all three in a balanced combination that leads to a graceful and love-filled walk with the Lord. Justice without kindness can be harsh and often becomes self-serving; yet, when kindness stands on its own, people tend to be too accepting of the sinful behaviors and attitudes of others. That is no more loving than it is to stand in front of someone and shout at them about their failure to live up to God’s standards. Finally, if we embrace justice and kindness without the humility to recognize that our ability to understand these complex characteristics comes from God, Himself, we are likely to make them into causes that become greater than the God who we should be serving by engaging in their implementation.

So, justice is linked to kindness, kindness is linked to justice, and both are controlled by humility. We can know God’s standards and view of justice by seeking out His Word on everything. We must be willing to pursue justice in our world with the same zeal that God does. We should also develop a heart that is filled with Christ’s kindness, for this is what keeps the zeal for justice in check, and this is what makes us willing to take the time and to risk truly getting to know people at the heart level. Then it all becomes functional and balance is achieved when we humbly place our own drive, desires, and thoughts under the control of the Spirit. The result is a walk through life that has the grace and the fluid movement of a champion for Christ.

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For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

Romans 15: 4

God must have an amazing drawer filled with His writing tools. There would be a stylus for etching stone, some quills for dipping into ink, fine and broad tipped markers, and all manner of electronic devices. He also uses His breath to speak His Word into existence, The Lord employs the softest touch imaginable to write love onto our hearts, and Christ came out of eternity and into my life to scribe my tale of salvation.. 

The Lord did not want any of us to miss what He has to say. So, He wrote it everywhere. God’s truth is found in the light and the darkness of every day, it can be seen in the power and the subtlety of nature, it is written across the pages of the bible, and it is spoken from the mouths of God’s people. The Spirit of Christ reaches into the depths of the human heart and implants the literal presence of God within us. We frail and sin weakened humans are lifted out of the darkness of this world and into the glory of Lord’s presence by the work of a word.    

The thing that God wants me to understand is that there is no obstacle, no fear, no insecurity, no pain, and no condition of my heart for which He does not have a perfect and a timely answer. If I will continue to seek him and desire to know Him ever more intimately through the word of truth with which God has literally surrounded me, I will find the deep joy and satisfaction, and the undeniable hope that Christ desires for me to dwell within.

Trust in the Lord forever, 

For the LORD GOD is an everlasting Rock.

Isaiah 26: 4 

There is so much in life that can rock our worlds, and I don’t mean in a good way, either. Just go to your favorite news source and read the top ten leading stories and see how much pain and suffering is afoot in our world on a regular basis. Escape isn’t found in the Sports or Entertainment pages either. Scandal, death, and wasted lives are commonplace themes in those “soft news” venues, too. What is even harder is the fact that so much of the sort of distress that is facing people across the globe is also staring each of us in the face at home. 

While the stories about lives turned upside down and shaken from their foundations by acts of nature and actions of man swirl around us in a seemingly never ending river of chaos that leads to fear and discouragement, there is another news story that needs to be read. It needs to receive continual, constant, and even total focus. God has written His story of relationship, love, and redemption across the history of the world. He sets it before our eyes and He scribes it onto our hearts if we are willing to simply open ourselves to receive and to hear His voice. 

As we shift our thought from the evil and the darkness around us and onto the light of Christ’s grace, the Spirit replaces confusion with clarity. He provides us with a sense of security that is based upon the actual fact of its existence. The Lord takes our swirling thoughts and emotions and calms the storm so that we can make reasoned and rational decisions while standing in the middle of the downpour. As we trust in God as the only valid source of truth and as the one who shows us the way to live with integrity, peace, joy, and love, in the midst of the world’s chaos, we are standing on the unshakable foundation of all of Creation.    

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit,whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Titus 3: 4-7

God did not save anyone, ever, because of our goodness or as a result of the work that we have done. Accomplishment in this world is of no value to the Lord. He is interested in one thing, and that is our willing acceptance of Him as Lord over our existence, Savior of our souls, and Perfecter of our hearts. When Paul says that the goodness and loving kindness of God appeared, he does not mean that these Godly characteristics were previously missing; rather, he is indicating that, in Christ, they became present in this world in human form and in His death and resurrection they were made tangible to all of the world in a way that had never been true before. God’s goodness and loving kindness were demonstrated in Christ’s willingness to endure the worst of human violence in order to permanently eradicate sin and death’s true power over people’s lives.

All of this is done because God feels great pain when people reject Him. He desires to be in relationship with all of us, and the Lord seeks after everyone even knowing that many of us will not accept that invitation and realizing that there will be a number of us that will openly and actively reject His love, grace, and offer of mercy. When Jesus taught about the shepherd that seeks after the one percent of the flock that had wandered away and into danger, He was speaking God’s heart for the relentless pursuit of any and all who are, in fact, lost in this world. He will go anywhere and endure everything that the evil of this planet can throw at Him in order to redeem one of us. So, too, should we be open to following Christ’s call and His leading into loving others, caring about and for them, and for going where it is needful in order to bring the love of Christ and the truth of His gospel to them.

This willingness to serve the Lord is a sign that we are true heirs of the great spiritual wealth that comes to people who enter into adoption by God into His family of faith. We are made into people that are able and willing to lay down our lives in service to God because of the work of regeneration that the Holy Spirit does in us and the related renewing of our minds from ones that are focused primarily upon our own desires and wants into ones that follow God’s heart and that seek to live in the full expression of love, righteousness, and justice. In all of this there is freedom, for we are no longer required to do good works in order to appear to be worthwhile people in the world. Instead, Christ’s blood has washed us clean and we are proclaimed to be righteous and holy by Christ so that all that we think, say, and do is oriented by the Spirit toward serving God’s will and all constraints upon our capacity to love others are removed by the presence of Godly grace and mercy in and with us through each hour of every day.    

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior.

Titus 1:1-3

Paul was very certain about what he was about and why he was doing it. He knew that he was a servant and that he was such a person because God, Himself, had called him out of his former life and had commissioned him to speak forth, to preach, the truth about redemption through Christ, salvation granted by grace alone, and the promise of eternity that was given by God to humanity during the earliest days of creation. This is that good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, that transforms death into life and that brings people into the center of God’s will, which is the outworking of the Lord’s desire to see all of creation returned to relationship with its Creator. Through acceptance of Christ, we, ourselves, become holy and acceptable in God’s presence, and we also are filled with the Spirit of Christ so that we can consider and respond to all aspects of life from God’s righteous and true perspective.

This same certainty is something that any of us that know Christ can obtain and can grow to understand as we travel through life with Him. For the Spirit implores us to seek after the same sort of wisdom and truth that Paul was driven to grasp and to comprehend. We have the additional aid of the full scope of God’s Word to study as we participate with the Spirit in developing into mature followers of Christ. Paul certainly did listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit as he continually developed and grew into ever greater maturity as an apostle of Jesus Christ. The man that was prepared and ready to instruct the church in the handling of complex and deeply troubling issues and situations in his later years was a different person than the more impulsive and hard-edged new convert that he had once been. This later Paul was a man that was focused on the long process of building up the church of Jesus Christ so that it could withstand the turmoil, trouble, and challenges that were to come its way over the years ahead.

So, as we operate out of the certainty of the gospel of Christ, yield our hearts and our minds to the counsel and instruction of the Spirit, and diligently seek after the Lord’s will for the ways that we can serve God’s Kingdom, we are living out the pattern that Paul set forth for us for dwelling on earth as a committed follower of Christ in our world. There will always be more for us to know about God’s love, grace, and truth, and we are going to continually be a work in progress when it comes to our responses to serving God’s will with the totality of our lives. With certainty I say that neither I nor you will write additional words of eternal truth such as these that Paul set forth for us to read, ponder, and be instructed by their content. It is with the same certainty that I hold that each of us, in Christ, will be called out of the life that we have lived previously and into service to the Lord in ways that are wonderful, powerful, and valuable in the growth of God’s holy and eternal body, His church.      

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5: 12

There exists a sort of mindless philosophy of life that says that people should ignore everything that is going on in their lives and in the world around them and so, “Just be happy.” This is not at all what Jesus had in mind here. He has just delivered the sobering thought that people who serve God by living out His righteousness to its fullest extent will be spoken of in harshly derogatory ways and will, in fact, be persecuted for their active faith. If this is the result of what comes our way because we choose to follow Christ and live out His direction for how we are to love others, care for them, and enter into redemptive peacemaking in our world, then it seems to be something very different from a state of being that could be viewed as mindless happiness. In fact, the pain that Jesus promises will be ours if we do seek after His path through life in this world is great as we might actually be choosing to walk in Christ’s footsteps all the way to the excruciating agony of the cross.

Yet, there is more to that prospect, for the Lord also gives us a a brief view of what comes beyond the sacrifices that He is leading us into in this life. Christ tells us that there is a reward to follow. The idea that we are to endure all that life throws at us in anticipation of some form of benefit in an afterlife may be hard to grasp during those hours of tears, fear induced sweat, and grief that we may be experiencing today. Still, the place that we occupy in this world is temporary and the days that we have to dwell here are short, and the other end of existence is infinite in its duration and in its wealth of blessing. However, there is more to what Jesus sets out as the promised heavenly response to our faithfulness to God’s holy will and righteous way of living it out. For the reward that we receive during the course of dwelling in the center of God’s will is also real and tangible. There is perhaps no experience in this world that is greater and more fulfilling than that of the sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit with you as you think, do, and say what is right in God’s eyes, even when this is done in the face of strong and persistent opposition from those around you.

This is the sort of thing that those prophets of old experienced. They spoke out and their words were frequently rejected by the world around them. They were also subjected to physical threats and harm and they often had to watch as the dire things that they foretold became reality. Still, the Lord walked through it all with them, and His Spirit was their companion and their guide for every step of that arduous journey. We may not be called upon by God to deliver words of prophecy to our world in the same manner as those people were, but each of us who knows Christ is called into unceasing service to our Lord and into a life dedicated to living out Christ’s grace, love, mercy, and truth in every aspect of life. Doing this to the best of our ability is cause for rejoicing, and the Spirit of Christ is present during these long hours of service to carry the weight of the burden and to encourage our failing hearts and confounded minds to continue the journey. Jesus knew that we were frail beings and that we would likely falter under the pressure and the strain of following Him; so, He also gave us His Spirit to travel this path with us, and He grants to us a form of joy that flows directly from the throne of heaven to wash our weary hearts in the knowledge of Christ’s delight in our faithful service.      

Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”

John 20: 21

The presence of the living Christ in our world can be highly disturbing. He asks for a lot, and He isn’t really willing to compromise on the things that He wants from people, ether. So, it almost seems like a paradox that these were the first words He said to His disciples after He left the tomb and appeared among them. Now Christ was certainly wishing for them to be at ease and to realize and understand that the person who stood among them was the same Jesus that they had known and loved and who had loved them over the last few years, but I think that Christ had much more in mind than just that reassurance. He wanted them to embrace the fact that they were called to continue His work of bringing the reconciling love and grace of God to and into the world. So, the disciples were to go out and to bring the essential message of peace between people and God and, thus, that of peace among people in our world.

Jesus knew that bringing peace was never going to be an easy task, for it requires hard work and dedication to the purpose at hand. It is a relentless process, for there is an enormous amount of energy in our world that is dedicated to creating turmoil, separation, and animosity. People tend toward self-protection and fear of others, and these are emotions that run so deep within us as to be almost fundamental to who and to what we are. Our own natures tend toward the troubled, self-protective, and fearful sides of behavior. Still, Christ wants His deep-seated peace to rule our hearts and minds so that we will interact with others with the clear headed inner calm of Christ. When we do this, we can make a difference in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities, and that difference will be a tangible expression of Christ’s love.

With this eternal peace well settled on us, we can speak the hard truths of God’s Word and still be heard as compassionate. When we interact with others, the peace in our hearts will help to filter out our human defenses and it will allow a true dialogue to begin. The peace of Christ is something to accept and it is something to diligently seek after, for as humans, we just don’t naturally settle in peaceful places. Yet, in response to our tendency Jesus says, “Peace be with you.” True peace is not something that is created by treaties, by force, or by governments. True peace is the result of individual people who choose to believe Christ and who are willing to set aside their worldly human responses and thinking in order to allow the Holy Spirit the opportunityto transform our hearts and minds into ones that more accurately reflect God’s intent in creation; thus, Christ sends us into our world as committed peace makers.