For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.

2 Peter 1: 16-18

We live in a time in world history where there is a striking absence of truly authoritative leadership. We are surrounded by people that wield power and that hold out their wisdom as if it were of supreme value, but the test of truth calls the lie in all of these claims. The voices that demand our loyalty and that attempt to impose their wills upon our nations are speaking out of the shallow depths of their own human reason as they too frequently make demands that are not in any way related to God’s Word of truth and life. This sort of worldly authority is, in fact, fueled by arrogance, and it draws far too many people into its enticing wasp trap of Spirit quenching death.

Peter was present when the one and the only, the singular, Lord God of the Universe proclaimed that Jesus was truly His Son. So, at that time, God was also proclaiming the conveyance of authority to rule over all of the earth as its sole rightful King. Jesus retains the right to pronounce judgement upon all that transpires in our world, and through His Spirit, He also provides all of the wisdom and counsel that we need in order to live as godly people. That is, the Spirit guides us into thinking and acting in a manner that will please God and that will bring the Kingdom of God into view in our world. When we are following Christ justice, mercy, peacemaking, and love for all people prevail. As people in positions of authority submit to Christ, they can do nothing other than promote these same well-articulated Godly characteristics.

As God’s character and nature are seldom seen in the words and the actions of many of our world’s leaders, one must surely question whether these people are actually submitted to Christ. For the vast majority of us, those who elect leaders and whose voice they should desire to hear, we should be questioning the sorts of opinions that we express to our elected rulers as we should also carefully consider the Christ-likeness of those for whom we vote. For, if Christ was truly proclaimed to be King and was so granted the authority to rule over this world, as attested to by Peter, then it is His heart-felt proclamation of grace and love for our neighbors that must prevail in the outworking of all of our earthly governance. There is no authority on earth that is superior to Jesus, and there is no rule of law that exceeds the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 6: 19, 20

 

There was a time when people relied upon a human High Priest to go for us before God and to offer up our repentance and requests for forgiveness. Although these men were well chosen and were generally reliable, they were human, and they were far from perfect themselves. Additionally, they were just like the rest of us in that they too were in need of repentance for their sins and the forgiveness of that sinfulness that only God could give. But things have changed, and we no longer have a need for these human priests to go to God for us. Jesus turned that entire system upside down, or perhaps more accurately, He set it all right again.

 

God created this world and us people to be in a direct and very easily obtained regular, even daily relationship with Him. He desires to be able to walk with us and to talk with us about all of the aspects of life and of living in a manner that is as easy and direct as is a conversation with my closest friend. The distance and the formality of the Jewish temple order was the result of a form of separation of humanity from God that came about due to our sinful pulling away from Him. Yet God did not leave things like that. He sent Jesus into our world, and in His sinless perfection Christ broke through and tore down the curtain of separation that had been constructed. Christ brings us into direct contact with God and into complete communication and total communion with our Lord. This was not a temporary fix, either, for things will never go back to the way that they were in those days that came between our rebellion and Jesus’ coming.

 

In Christ, we can be confident of our place and our standing before God. He does go before us into the presence of the Most High, and Christ speaks in defense of our new status as redeemed citizens of the kingdom of God. Through the work of Christ, we are granted a certain place, that sure anchor for the soul, within God’s favor wherein we are included in His purpose and plan for the redemption of this world. We are saved into this secure status through the work of Christ alone, and we are granted confident access to the presence of God in all aspects of our lives by the mediation of Jesus for us. In addition, Jesus, our eternal High Priest, has sent His Spirit to dwell with and within us in order to provide that regular, routine, and on-going conversational communication with God that was the Father’s desire and intent from the beginning of time.

Then the King, will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Matthew 25: 34

 

Life is about one thing and only one thing. Every good deed and loving thought comes from that, and all of our ability to withstand the hard times and the great sorrows that can come our way is derived from it. Whether you have accepted God’s call to believe in the totality of who He is or not, you live in a world where all of the love, thus, all of the goodness, comes from the One who wrote the script and who provides the energy behind those positive forces in our world. The Lord is not exclusive as to who He touches with His loving care, and He does not withhold access to it from anyone; yet, the possibilities that exist are much greater than just access.

 

For God has always had a desire to enter into a relationship with us; thus, He prepared a way for that to happen through Jesus, the Lord wants us to enter into the new dwelling place of His Kingdom, and He wants us to live in the full reality of our new home from this moment onward. So, all people are called by God to gain a blessing that He wants to give by accepting the totality of who He is and by agreeing to enter into a relationship with Him. If we agree with God’s calling and submit our lives to Christ, we are packed up, moved out of our worldly shacks, and relocated into the palace of the King Eternal.

 

Jesus calls; yet, I know that I don’t always listen; still, He keeps calling, and His voice wants to lead me out of the dark places of sadness and fear and into the center of the great festive hall of His kingdom’s glory where the Lord has a place prepared for me to live. Jesus calls to all of us who know Him to come and to reside in the center of His loving grace and care; for, the Kingdom of God and His royal palace are today’s reality for God’s own people; thus, we can claim our place there and never allow the lies of this world to make us believe that we live any place else. Believe in God’s promises and trust in Jesus’ words of wisdom, grace, and love. This new home and the relationship with God that leads us into it are here for the taking foe all who will listen to the Lord’s call and come.

And many nations shall join themselves to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.

Zechariah 2: 11

 

There are many things that divide and that separate people in our world. Some of these differences are superficial and others come from deep within. Sometimes it is rather easy to get beyond the separation makers and to let go of the things that tend to hold us apart, but at other times, this takes real and sincere effort to accomplish. We all can identify some of the differences that exist between ourselves and other people that we have encountered, and most of us can tell stories of greater or lesser success in bridging these gaps. One of the most commonly used means of defining people and of grouping us into collections of seemingly similarly oriented individuals is nationality. The nation of our origin tends to give each of us cultural identity, language, appearance, and even in many cases religion. Nationality is one of the most commonly used means that we have for differentiating and for separating people.

 

It is something that the Lord seems to be very interested in, too. God cares about the diversity that exists in our world. He also gave us the various forms of civil governance and societal organization that have come to be known as the numerous nations that have existed in our world throughout history and that are with us today. The rich variety of languages, races, cultures, and other aspects of identity that are with us in our world are gifts that God has granted to us. Each of us knows our world in ways that are determined by who we are and by where we have come from. Although these differences can and do become barriers to our understanding and to our communication, they do not need to be so, for all people can know commonality and be in communion in Christ. When we are aligned in our relationships with Christ, the things that otherwise can be divisive can also be transformed into real blessings and so become sources for great joy.

 

God has made it clear in His Word that at the end of time there will no longer be many nations on this earth as all people will come to dwell in the restored creation that is all contained within the Kingdom of God. At this time, when we are still awaiting Christ’s return, we can seek to make the relational promises of that time a part of our living reality. When we encounter people whose skin color, language, customs, and other practices are different from ours, we can seek to get to know them. We can listen to their stories of life, enter into their dreams and desires, and share the same aspects of our lives with them. In so doing, we will learn that the person who might seem to be so different from us is, in fact, very much more like us than otherwise in that we all have been created in God’s image. Nations and the barriers to relationship that they may cause in our world should not stop followers of Christ from coming together with each other so that we can serve our Lord together in His call to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to all the corners of our world.

 

 

Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

Joshua 21: 45

 

This is a bold statement; in fact, it is a very strong expression of the way that God had entered in to a complex series of events. Yet, it captures and encapsulates the experience that the Israelites had lived out under Moses and Joshua’s leadership as they left a state of slavery, journeyed across a hostile land, and fought to take possession of their given homeland. God had taken them out of their captive state, He had gone before them and provided provisions for their survival through those hard days in the harsh wilderness, and then the Lord had engaged in battle with their enemies and had provided the Israelites with guidance for their fights as well. Nothing that was good, needful, or redemptive came from a source outside of God’s hand. This was their reality; yet, unfortunately, it was a fragile one.

 

The Israelites, like many people across the course of history, lost sight of the character and the nature of God and of His wise counsel. They headed off in their own directions and sought after other, worldly forms of counsel and guidance. They entered into the worship of illicit gods and even began to offer up sacrifices of all types to these demanding concepts of what the divine should be; so, in the end, most of what God had granted to the Israelites was lost. Yet, God never turned away from them. He has continued to work out His redemption in and for them just as He has done the same for all people on this earth without regard to race, tribe, or other human attachment or affiliation. Jesus is the final and the ultimate answer to the good promise that God made to the Israelites and that He also made to all of creation. Jesus the Christ responds to each and every need that our bodies and our souls have in this life, and He comes into our lives with the full implementation of God’s love, grace, and redemption from sin and its death.

 

In Christ, we can all enter into the fulfillment of God’s promises of peace, joy, and meaning in this life. We also are granted His promise of eternity in full relationship with our Creator. This is a form of hope that is greater than all of the trials, struggles, and hardship that can come our way in life. The presence of Christ overcomes the oppressive powers of this world and all of their ill intent for us. Although we will encounter difficult times and even brutally harsh periods over the course of life, our feet are granted the solid foundation of God’s Word to stand firmly upon, and our hearts are surrounded by the presence of the Holy Spirit to shield and to guide us through these days of turmoil. The land that God has given to us as our place of dwelling may not have defined boundaries and borders as did the one that the Lord granted to the Israelites, but it is still very real and our possession of it is in every sense God’s love gift to us. As this new day dawns upon each of us, there is hope to be found in God’s promises of His goodness, there is peace and joy to be gained by and through the presence of Christ, and meaning and purpose are ours in following God’s will as our path of travel.

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

 

God is a fisherman, God is a shepherd, God is lion, and God is King. All of these ideas are used to attempt to convey the nature and character of God, and all are quite accurate. He does go about the business of seeking after a catch of hearts and minds of people who would rather remain hidden away in the depths of our own sea of lostness and sin. Yet our Lord casts his net to bring in all varieties of humanity into His grace, love, and life. Our Lord is also the one who provides care and nourishment for us while protecting those precious hearts, minds, and even bodies from the harm that is attached like molecules of air to the atmosphere of this world. By way of His sheep tending metaphorical being, God also seeks after and searches tirelessly for any of us who wander away from His righteousness and life-giving presence.

 

When God is described as being a lion, I think of the proud and almost defiant image of a male lion with a full flowing mane and head half turned to look my way as if to say that He is in charge and that I am not. The lion image seems appropriate in that they are powerful and swift, guardians of their territory, and nurturing and caring with their pride. You do not want to encounter one when you are outside of its good graces, but you would certainly want one to provide protection from the evil forces of the wilderness. This description of God as lion leads to the concept that He is King. Yet, this title is far too limiting, for no king in all of history has had the sort of power, the absolute sovereignty, that the Lord possesses. He did not inherit this world, and no person placed its crown upon His head. God created it all as He imagined it into being. His rule over the universe is a part of the nature of that entity. God’s authority and the grace that is attached to it are what hold this world together despite the rebellious and destructive natures of its inhabitants. All that is good, righteous, and holy in this world is poured into it by God’s regal hand.

 

The thing that is most striking to me, however, is the fact that One who holds this much power, who rules over all that exists in the broad expanse of creation, and that works tirelessly to bring souls into His presence is the same God who reached out to my lost soul and called me into His presence. Then He has continuously provided my insignificance with the dignity and the calling of a person who has prominence in His kingdom and important work to do on behalf of the King. This kingdom of God, the place where I now dwell, is supplied with all that is required for myself and for all of creation to be sustained and to thrive. It is a place that is lush with the truth and the wisdom of the Lord. His grace flows out into streams of refreshing redemption, and the Lord’s love provides a covering for my weariness at day’s end. This place is where my heart finds strength, my mind encounters knowledge and wisdom, and my soul enters into the peace and the rest that it craves. My Lord has redeemed me, and He seeks to redeem all people from the harsh world as He provides us with a home in His presence.

And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of seeds on the earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts our large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

Mark 4: 30-32

 

This is a really familiar statement that Jesus made to His followers as they went about the business of sharing the truths of living as people of God in their world. There is deliberate obscurity and vagueness at work in this parable. We are supposed to think about what it means, and we are also to rely upon spiritual insights in order to gain that understanding. Jesus knew that only a limited number of people would actually grasp what He was saying and also be willing to allow Him to change their lives in a manner that would lead to living as He said. The people who heard Jesus speak on this day were with Him and we are not, but we have the great advantage of the presence of Christ’s Spirit with and within us. This makes a very important difference for us in gaining understanding and deriving wisdom from God’s Word.

 

First off, it is apparent that Jesus is not talking about gardening here and that this account is not even about plants and their care or growth. Jesus is telling about a kingdom that is formed up by spiritual walls and that encompasses all of the earth within its borders. He is describing a place where all of His followers are citizens and a relationship that transcends all other affiliations and allegiances that we may have. The laws of this kingdom are superior to those of all nations as these laws actually form the foundation for all good and just ones that people have devised to bring order to our society. Yet, as wide spread and foundational as this kingdom may be and as mighty as is its King, the kingdom of God still relies upon people such as you and I to spread its message of love, hope, and righteousness in our world.

 

This task often seems to be overwhelming or even impossible. On many days it is hard to find a place where the Gospel of Christ is desired or even acceptable. It is easy to feel as if whatever I may have to offer to this world by way of bringing my beliefs and faith into the conversation of life will be insignificant and that doing this may actually diminish my credibility with the people around me. It seems that Jesus is telling us something else. He is saying that very small efforts and impacts as viewed from our perspective can have a monumental effect in the world around us as God’s creative and redemptive work is carried out through them. Christ asks us to take the small risk of going out into our world and being His disciple in it. His Spirit will go with us to reveal truth, provide us with encouragement and strength, and lead our way. As we each follow the leading of the Spirit and implant our faith in Christ alone into our world, a magnificent harvest of redemption will sprout up around us.