Seek the LORD and his strength;

   seek his presence continually!

1 Chronicles 16: 11

There are many kinds of strength that can be viewed and experienced in our world. Some of them produce outcomes that are great and wonderful and others leave a path of brokenness and destruction in their wakes. The difference in the outcome that is derived by the use of strength can be determined by very slight changes in the method of application of that strength; yet, the effect of the utilization of strength upon people can last for generations. In general, people desire to be strong or, at least, to be viewed as such. We want to hold a position that is no less than equal to those around us so that we can be in control as much of the time as it is possible. We want to be the one who call out the cadence for the on-going dance of life. This is true for us individually, and it seems to be magnified when the concepts of strength, power, and dominion are applied to nations.

However, the strength that we tend to seek after or generate for ourselves is too often derived from the wrong sorts of sources and for reasons that do not match God’s way of righteous living. We are far more likely to go for bulging muscles or for extreme horsepower than we are prone to pursuit of the strength that is formed out of compassion, mercy, and care for others. In human or worldly terms, strength is something that can be put on and worn as a form of armor that is used to protect us from too close or intimate a level of contact with all that is messy, hard, and wounded around us. This sort of strength is often expressed in angry or hurtful words as it is filled with bluster, bravado, and speaks in a manner that casts others as unworthy opponents to be discounted and denied any form of dignity. This sort of expression of strength is the weakest possible form of it, and is far removed from the type of strength that David was calling upon God’s people to adopt.

The Lord’s strength is found in His presence. It is grown up within people as we turn away from the natural way of seeking after self-determined forms of power and submit to God’s will in all matters. The more that we place ourselves under the Lord’s authority and seek out His heart, mind, and desire as the factors that determine our course through life and our methods for getting there, the stronger we will become in the truest sense of what constitutes that quality. Godly strength is measured in dignity granted to others, resources that are shared with those in need, the will to seek peace rather than victory, and a deeply held desire to serve before exerting a demand for service. The sort of strength that makes a positive difference in our world is learned from God and is found in His Word and by the leading of His Spirit. This type of strength is best cultivated through regular prayer as it is nurtured by times of listening to God and reflection upon what He is saying. This world needs strong people to care for its needs and to guide it toward righteousness and into God’s will, and we can be the Lord’s strong ones by focusing all of our being on knowing Him and in dwelling in His presence continually.     

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For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.

1 John 5: 4

 

Let’s face it, we live in an age where we have access to information, whether accurate or wildly distorted, about everything that is happening around us, and there are days when this world and its news just seem overwhelming. We are hit in the face with wars and other forms of human violence on an almost hourly basis while personal tragedy and losses are played out in a relentless procession of pain and suffering. Even those among us with the greatest of resources available cannot begin to meet all of the needs that are presented for our consideration. There seems to be a giant hole growing in the center of the world’s heart where all that is civil, human, and good is falling in and getting lost under the tons of debris that is the fall out from our world’s relentless chaos. As we look into God’s Word, none of this should come as a shock or a surprise. Yet, as we know and understand God’s heart, it should still cause us concern and bring about feelings of grief and empathy for those who are in pain.

 

As I view the news from around my world, Christ points my mind to the human suffering and loss that is woven throughout these stories. He tells me of His own feelings of anguish and agony that are felt in response to what we people do to and with each other. My Lord leads me into appreciation for the struggle that millions of others are engaging in as they go about living through this day, and He also points my stunned and overwhelmed mind toward the only answer that carries with it real hope, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This thought may seem simplistic, detached, and even delusional in that the problems of this world don’t appear to have easy or readily achievable answers; yet, I hold that the opposite is true. The Gospel of Christ does not stop with a profession of faith, but rather, it begins there. As a follower of Christ, as one who has accepted on faith the reality of Jesus and the living truth of His transformative message of hope, I am compelled by my Lord to enter into my world for the sake of His name and in service to His will and desire to bring love, grace, and peace to every corner of this planet.

 

This is how those of us who have been born of God do overcome the disastrous mess that is this world. We may not change a single global story wherein brutality and oppression seem to rule the day; however, we can impact a life or two or so with a form of love and care that can lead to relationships that transcend eternity. God has overcome all that is evil in this world and beyond, and His Word makes it very clear that there is soon to be a day of great reckoning when Christ will set right all that has gone wrong in our world. Until then, we join Him in this victory over the evil that is attempting to overwhelm us with the volume and the intensity of its message of hopelessness and defeat. In Christ, we are called to live out His victory by loving others without regard for their response to us as we seek to bring people who are distanced from each other by worldly systems and ideas into our Lord’s peace and understanding. It is our faith in Christ and in the saving truth of His Gospel that makes the miracle of deep and true love possible, and it is this love that overcomes this world.

For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2: 13

 

No one other than Jesus who has walked upon this earth is beyond the need for mercy. We all face a time in our existence when we will stand before a just and a righteous God with the sum total of our life upon this globe under His examination. None of us will pass through that moment without the need for God’s mercy. We all live in sinful disobedience to God, and each of us falls terribly short of His standard for acting as the God shaped image-bearers of His character that we were created to be. Unfortunately, God’s nature with its love, grace, compassion, and mercy often seems very far from the way that His people actually live.

 

Despite God’s merciful nature, we followers of Christ are often known for our readiness to judge rather than for our outpouring of mercy. Perhaps we forget that we, too, are counted among the lost without the grace and the mercy of Christ. Throughout history there have been far too many conflicts waged in the name of righteousness and not enough attempts made to enter into the sacrificial act of peacemaking. However, Christ has called upon His people to be peacemakers, and the Father has reserved the right to judge for Christ. This thought is not based upon a moment of pointing my finger at others and calling out their sin; rather, it is formed by looking in the mirror and seeing my own sinfulness.

 

In order to become truly merciful, I need to leave behind my fears, prejudices, doubts, and self-importance. These aspects of my self are planted deeply within my heart and my mind. They don’t just disappear if I wish it so. However, Christ does change us. His presence in our lives transforms the old into the new that is of substance and in like kind the nature of the Living God. The holy robe of mercy is put on through repentance and prayer, and it grows as we seek after it. Mercy is perfected through practice as Christ replaces our judgmental spirits with one that extends the love of God through the granting of mercy and peace to others.

 

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason that the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.

1 John 3: 1

 

You know, estrangement and isolation are not all bad. Living as a stranger in this world is also fine if this sense of separation is due to our movement away from our old way of being and toward God and into His righteousness. There is a tension that exists between God and the evil that has taken temporary residence here in our world. We can feel it when we are conflicted between doing what Christ tells us is right and what may seem best for us at a given moment. These are times when the border war for our hearts has flared up into open conflict.

 

We are all born into allegiance to God’s enemy; yet, even while we are so aligned, God sees us as beloved children, as lost sheep. He calls, and He comes searching, and He never stops loving us. Christ’s blood placed the official seal on our adoption papers; thus, we already have a new home for our hearts and our souls with God. All that is left for us to do is to accept that gift by allowing Jesus in and by trusting Christ with our lives. Then we become fully invested members of God’s family. We are children of God in every sense and with all of the entitlements that go with that status.

 

Our place and our purpose in this life changes, too. We are given the role of peacemakers; we are commissioned to seek an end to the strife that exists everywhere in this world by bringing the news of God’s love to conflicted people. True peace is found when our relationship with God is active and alive, and it is this peace with Him that matters totally. We need to embrace the strangeness of this world in that the more we move into the center of God’s will and the better we know His love, the more He will place us into contact with people who need to be loved by God. Then we can let people see the difference in us, allow them to know us in our estrangement from the world. Christ leads us to help them see the way to this new life of living inside of God’s total love.