Only take care, and keep your soul diligently lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest you depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and to your children’s children.

Deuteronomy 4: 9

Does it seem as if everyone is in a giant hurry to get somewhere, but it is really hard to see what that destination might actually be? Thus, this world feels like a place that is filled with careless people who are continually crashing into each other without even realizing that there might be injury or damage left in the wake of their travels. Perhaps it is our accelerated pace of life that is the cause of the way that people interact so poorly with each other, or the harshness of our days just may be the result of a form of universal self-centeredness. Regardless of the source or the cause, the reality of life is that there are far too many of these collisions of the heart, mind, and body happening to people all around us. They may be people that we barely know or they might be the ones that we are closest to and most intimately involved with, but in the end, the pain is real and the harm can be catastrophic for relationships.

The same sort of thing is true when it comes to our relationship with God. We rush about and seldom, if ever, give a moment’s pause to consider the presence of God in our lives. He is there for that special hour on the prescribed day of gathering for attendance at a place we call church or some such name, and He is called upon when disaster or significant injury and illness strike. Yet, our careless hearts have generally pushed the Lord out of the schedule that we have so meticulously crafted for our days so that our time will be highly productive. So, I am led to wonder about that productivity and to look at the carelessness of my days in light of the way that God desires to be the One who sets the direction and establishes the tone for each and every hour of all of our days. If I do not have time to see the needs of others and to hear the pain in their hearts, am I really listening to Moses’ words of wisdom and keeping my soul diligently focused upon my Lord?

Moses make a point of reminding himself and the people that he was leading of the consistently powerful way that God had been with them and had provided for them in all situations, circumstances, and places. This same testimony is true in my life, for God has been present and active in it from its earliest days, and one of the most important aspects of the Lord’s involvement with me has been the way that He has opened my eyes to the hurt and the pain in the lives of others. I am not particularly good at responding to those promptings, but God does not allow me to ignore them for very long without bringing me back into His reality. I am reminded to take care of my relationship with Christ and to look intently upon His face as He leads me into meditation upon His Word. Christ’s Spirit takes care of my soul, and He calls me into regular, purposeful, and committed times of prayer and listening to His voice. It is during these times that the Lord reveals His heart of compassion and concern for others to me as He speaks healing and strength into my soul. 

theologyThink over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

2 Timothy 2: 7

We live in a complex world. The issues that are out there for us to deal with are complicated, and they are frequently confusing to sort out, too. Reaching good, sound, and even Godly decisions about many of the things that we encounter can be hard to accomplish. We gather information, and we process it. We seek out opinions from experts and from friends, and still clarity can elude us. In many instances, right and wrong are just not all that clearly defined or differentiated. As followers of Christ, we can seek out God’s Word and people who teach from it in order to gain truth and clear direction. Yet, even that process can leave issues unresolved or even more confused, for interpretation of Scripture and ideas about God’s will or direction can vary rather significantly from person to person.

God knew that this would be a challenge for His people, and He did something about resolving the tension that results from these differences in the way that people tend to see the same material or view a situation. At the end of His post-resurrection time on earth, Jesus left His followers and returned to dwell fully in that aspect of the universe that we know as Heaven. At this time, Christ deliberately left the Spirit with us, and as we come into relationship with Christ, the Spirit comes to dwell within each of us, too. Thus, as we seek to understand how we are to live in our world today, we have access to God’s Word of truth and life, the inspired teaching of people that God has gifted in understanding and interpretation of that Word, and the Holy Spirit. All of these are useful and important as we seek to live out our days as righteous people, as God’s people.

Even a great and Godly teacher such as was Paul knew that he was not the final authority when it came to matters of spiritual discernment and understanding of God’s will and direction for life. He relied upon the counsel and the guidance of the Spirit, and he advised others to do the same. When we seek out God’s perspective on these various situations and issues that we face, we are using the full array of tools that the Lord has provided for us in order that we might live well throughout our journey through life. Although Paul’s statement about thinking over what he has said may sound simple and direct, there is much more contained in doing that than just a few casual thoughts. The Lord is leading us into regular reading of His Word, and prayer that is derived out of it and about its content. He calls upon us to listen to and consider teaching that is founded on that same Word; then, we are to pray about understanding and applying what we have heard. Additionally, Christ desires for each of us to live in the companionship and the support of the fellowship of faith that is found in His body while continuing to pray individually and as a gathered group in search of the Spirit’s guidance, direction, and understanding of God’s will.      

For God alone my soul waits in silence;

from him comes my salvation.

He only is my rock and my salvation,

my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken.

Psalm 62: 1, 2

 

I fear that I am guilty of polluting my environment, but this is not the customary sort of crime against nature and my fellow humans. My misdemeanor is directed at myself and involves an insult to my Lord as well. You see, I have engaged in a substantial and an on-going barrage of words that my mind directs at my heart. These words tend to take over my understanding and serve as the revealed wisdom that I attempt to use to guide my days. Unfortunately they are too often negative or contra productive in their nature and content. They are generally formed out of the poor soil of my fears, doubts, and the desires of my flesh.

 

Thus, God asks me for my silence. He directs me to His Word of truth and desires for me to meditate on that revelation of His wisdom and guidance. This is not always as easy to do as it sounds, for my mind is active and I want to hear my own words above all others. However, the Lord is remarkably patient with me in this matter. He allows the opportunity for me to exhaust my own supply of thought while He waits for me to relent from my process and settle in at His feet in an attitude of submission that is often driven by the exhaustion that comes from my own striving after answers and direction.

 

When I am finally still, silent in God’s Word and before His presence, the Lord’s words of counsel, guidance, and comfort are poured into my thirsty heart and mind by His loving and gracious Spirit. As I am truly present before the Lord so that my words are turned off and His truth feeds my understanding with eternal wisdom, my situation is not always easy or comfortable. God speaks truth, and that rare commodity can be troubling and challenging; however, it is always what I need and it directs me onto Christ’s path of righteousness and into the fullness of His life. In these quiet times of listening to the Lord, David’s images of rock, fortress, and salvation are made tangible to me as Christ directs my heart into the truth of His calling for my life.

 

Before they call I will answer;

while they are yet speaking I will hear.

Isaiah 65: 24

 

God is speaking of redemption here. This passage is descriptive of the way things will be as a result of His restorative work. I think that as we look at these ideas we can take great personal comfort in them. Although much of what is being discussed in this part of Isaiah is about a world that is yet to come on a global scale, Christ’s redemptive and therefore restorative work in the lives of people is accomplished. In Christ we know the new life that is God’s promise. Through Christ we are known fully by the Father and are recognized as beloved children of the Most High Lord.

 

In this relationship with God we are granted the blessing of the presence of the Spirit who speaks to our minds and our hearts and who provides us with a form of knowledge and wisdom that exceeds all other. This is why we can take confidence in silence; that is, in our own silence. We are in a relationship with God in which He listens to the words of our hearts and hears them before we have begun to form their sounds and sentences. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t speak out to God, for this expression is a part of the way in which our trust in Him is formed and developed. However, we can also sit in the silence of our wordlessness and have faith that we are still being heard.

 

It is this manner of connected communication that sets God apart from other gods that people follow. These other gods demand the attention of people and speak out in utterances of edict and command. The God that I know listens to my heart and hears the expressions of my soul. He enters into the issues and the concerns that I hold and responds out of His deep love for me. He still commands and pronounces truth and righteousness as His absolute way of living. However, the Lord does these things from the perspective of a loving father who is growing me up into the grace and the peace of maturity and the functionality of wholeness in mind, body, and spirit.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,

But with the humble is wisdom.

Proverbs 11: 2

 

This is not intended to be a comment on the political climate of our world, but it probably could be. There is enough pride and ego afoot on the campaign trail to fill a thousand hot air balloons with wind left over to propel them along. Yet, before I start pointing at others and calling out their weakness, I should look at myself and ask God to reveal my own arrogance, ego, and pride. It seems that this is one of those areas in life where there can be a very fine line between what is healthy and good and that which damages relationships and leads to self-absorbed and harmful thinking.

 

It is often very difficult to accurately assess my own thinking and actions. I may believe that I am functioning out of a foundation of truth and conviction when, in fact, it is my pride that is speaking. Because it is difficult to look upon myself and honestly perceive my motives and the impact of what I am doing, I need God’s wisdom and revelation to show me the truth about myself. This truth comes by way of several sources. God’s Word is a story of humility and engagement. In it I find described in vivid detail the way that the Lord desires that I would think and act. Through it, in prayer and meditation, I am counseled, directed, and encouraged by the Holy Spirit. God literally speaks to my heart and transforms the thought processes that lead to my actions in daily life.

 

Even with the eternal counsel of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, I require more in order to live in the fullness of God’s design and intent. As God is relational, so are people. God counsels us to follow Him in the context of fellowship with others who also know Him. When it comes to receiving honest input into the righteousness of my actions and the holiness of my thinking, no one is better qualified to provide such input than people who know and follow Christ and with whom I am in regular worshipful fellowship. Pride is dangerous, yet confidence is essential for living boldly in this world; so, Christ leads His people into the essential balance between the these two often competing human characteristics.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Jeremiah 29: 11

 

God has plans for me. That can be a very troubling thought, or it can be a truly comforting one. My response to this idea is primarily based upon my view of God and upon how well developed my own plans are at this time. If I know with absolute certainty where my life is headed and I am working hard to assure that future, it can be very difficult to set all of that effort and my thoroughly designed game plan aside for a time in order to do what is necessary for me to truly hear the will of God expressed. It is hard for me to enter into this period of prayer and meditation, this cessation of my own efforts toward my goals, in order for my voice to recede into the background.

 

In order to do this I need to trust God more than I trust myself. This depth of trust comes from knowing God well. As I look upon Him in His Word and in the world, the nature and the character of the Lord are fully on display. Often it is God’s people who present the most telling demonstration of His unceasing trustworthiness as they tell the stories of their lives and the ways that God has been with them and taken them through all that they have encountered during the journey. This undeniable and continual presence of God is a very clear indicator of His faithfulness to myself and to all of His people.

 

So, when God tells me that He has plans for me, I can trust that, in fact, those plans are the ones that I should seek out and follow. However, seeking and following doesn’t necessarily mean that I stop all that I am doing and wait until the message from God is clear to me. The Lord often works through our efforts as we yield them to His will. He illuminates certain paths and darkens others. His will is frequently expressed through the prayerful advice of Godly people. Some of His ways are hard and the environment there can be harsh and unfriendly, but He goes with us to those places and shows us His strength when ours fails. The one thing that I can count on is that God knows where He wants me to go, and He is the sovereign Lord of that place.

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14: 17

 

As Christians we tend to dream of a future time when the broken pain of this world and of life in it will be gone. In this time when Christ has come back to destroy all that is evil and to establish His perfectly just reign on earth God’s people will no longer live with the harsh reality of disease, violence, and suffering that are an unavoidable part and portion of our lives today. This is a worthy dream, and it is a promise that God has made which demonstrates the Creator’s heart for redemption and restoration of His creation.

 

Yet, this future promise is not the reality of today, and there is nothing that we can do to either hasten its advent or control God’s timing. What we can do is grasp the fact that, in Christ, we are already citizens of this new kingdom. We have surrendered our birthrights as ones who hold primary allegiance to an earthly country and accepted a higher authority as our rightful Ruler and Lord. This new identity in which we hold a heavenly passport frames and shapes everything about the way that we view our responsibility to God in our daily lives. The rules that we have established for life no longer apply. This is true for rules of propriety and for those of personal pleasure,

 

Instead, we are called by God to live by His standards and as emissaries of the priorities of God’s kingdom. This means that we are to love others without condition or reservation. We are to be people who seek to bring justice to others who have no voice or capacity to express themselves. We are granted the grace of God in absolute and total abundance, and we are empowered by Christ to give grace to others and in all of the circumstances of life. As followers of Christ we are provided with wisdom and capacity to enter into the suffering and the struggles of humanity and the ability to withstand our own portion of these same hardships. Through prayer and meditation, study of God’s Word, and in the fellowship of believers, followers of Christ can bring this new kingdom of righteousness to our neighbors for the glory of God and the salvation of their souls.

Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus.

Romans 15: 5

 

When I consider things which are nearly impossible for us humans and situations that are almost never going to happen; thinking like others, you know, having a synchronized view of the world and acting in consistent harmony of heart and mind with other people, gets a spot near the top of the list of the improbable, unlikely, and impossible. Just try driving in moderately heavy traffic for a while and see how hard it is for the drivers of all of those cars to stay in harmonious agreement about where they are going and the rules of the road that they need to follow. People just don’t want to be conformed, and we certainly don’t want to yield our own perspective to another person’s.

 

The idea that people can share a common understanding and think in a unified and harmonious manner seems to be important to God. Yet, He made us with this strong, independent and continually inquisitive nature; therefore, He must have a plan for accomplishing the desired unity of thinking without crushing the strength of our individuality out of us. This is a part of why God gave us His Spirit to live with and in us in an active and intimately interactive relationship. He also granted us His revealed truth and a clear picture of who He is through His Word. In addition to all of this, God speaks to and with each of us and with His body as we engage with Him in prayer and meditation.

 

It is through the Spirit, the Word, and in prayer that we gain an understanding of God’s true desires. It is through the acceptance of this total knowledge of God that we are given the strength of character that is required to truly understand another person’s perspective and the courage to yield our own viewpoint to that person’s. Engaging in relationships to the depth and with the commitment that is required to make them strong and to continue them over time requires the ability to stick with the other person regardless of the way things are going from moment to moment. This is perseverance, and it comes from God. Generally, we also need to be encouraged to stick with other people when there doesn’t appear to be anything to gain from doing that. It is the Spirit of Christ that continually brings that sort of encouragement into my heart. In Christ we do have the ability to believe, think, and live together in unity. We can possess the peace and the joy of honest yet harmonious relationships, and when this happens, Christ’s body is unified for His purposes.

 

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16: 13, 14

 

Although it is really easy to get caught up in the contemplative aspects of connecting with God through prayer and meditation, it is important to take what we learn in this manner and to put feet onto it throughout our day. These words are filled with the action of a life lived in a close relationship with Christ. Faith is not something that we hold quietly inside. It is not a passive quality of our lives as Christians. It is the fuel of the words and the actions that are the substance of what we do and of how we are perceived each day. Faith in the God that we have come to know and who knows us deeply, who made us to fulfill the life purpose that we are faced with each day, this is the faith that provides the strength and that opens our hearts and our minds to the ways that the Lord will use us this day.

 

We are to continually look for and to be attuned to the needs of others, and we should seek out opportunities to speak and to act in the name of Christ. We are also to be alert for the satanic attacks that will go with a life lived for Him. It is important to prepare to stand up for what we believe. Sometimes this is in words, more often it is in the actions that we take and in the way that we treat others. This takes courage and strength. We may be required to do and to say things that the world around us will look at as irrational or just plain dumb. We still need to be ready to do it; for, we need to be ready to set aside the rational processes of considering our personal risk and be willing to let the Holy Spirit take charge of the moment. As the famous add campaign says, “Just Do It!”.

 

One final thing to consider, action can be very powerful and a bit addicting. We can get caught up in the adrenalin rush that comes from our desire to live fully for Christ; therefore, the final instruction here is that we should do everything with one, singular and overarching motive. Faith tells us that we can trust God’s love for us as his primary motive in relating to us. Perhaps the most courageous quality that we are called upon by God to employ in our daily living for Him is that of love. Faith gives us the strength that is needed to drop the sword that we naturally want to let lead our way through life and to open our hands and our arms in order to embrace the lost and the hurting people that Christ will place into our paths.

 

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.

Romans 14: 22

 

Although through history God has spoken directly to nations and a number of countries have considered themselves to be Christian, God has always been primarily concerned with developing individual and personal relationships. Christ calls to every person on earth to come and accept His gift of saving grace. His heart is heavily burdened for each of us; since, God wants to be in relationship with all of us. Even after we have accepted the gift of salvation and entered into that relationship with Him, God continues to care greatly about the way that we choose to function. The nature of our thoughts and of our actions directly impacts the intimacy of our time with Him, and it also greatly influences our ability to fulfill Christ’s calling to us to spread the truth of His loving grace throughout our world.

 

Thus, God wants us to develop our own understanding of His personal and specific direction for our lives, and He wants us to continually seek to know Him better and to know His Word more fully. So, the Lord wants us to listen to other people, to consider their understanding of His word, and to carefully contemplate the perspective that they bring to the complexities of living righteously. However, God also tells us to test everything that others tell us and the thoughts that we devise ourselves against what we see written in His Word. Additionally, we need to open up our minds and our hearts to the input and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is through this process of listening, reading ,and learning combined with seeking the Spirit’s guidance that we develop our own understanding of who God is and of how He wants us to live.

 

A mature  relationship with God is forged, developed, and strengthened through personal study, prayer, and meditation. These practices must be followed by seeking to live in the manner and to take the actions that God is revealing to each of us. When this is our manner of living, true and deep conviction is the result. This is exactly what God wants. His desire is that everyone would seek to know Him as deeply as He already knows us and that we would develop a passion for living in the center of His truth that will impact our world for the glory of the Lord’s kingdom.