And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

1 John 2: 17

Durability is something that matters to most people. We consider it when we are looking to purchase items that we might want to have with us and use for a long time. We also think about it when we consider things like career choices, long-term housing selection, and relationships. We not only want each of these things to last for an extended period of time, but we also desire for that tenure to be one that is filled with enjoyment, satisfaction, and even appreciation in value and worth. Yet, the place where all of this takes place and on which it is constructed is, itself, failing and crumbling as it traverses its final epoch od existence in its current configuration. God has promised that this world will come to a terrible and even catastrophic end at a date that is certain to Him but that is left undisclosed to us. This will take place so that its great, glorious, and redeemed replacement can be launched forth by God; thus, all that is here now needs to be removed.

God has included us in His plan for what comes next. We are not necessarily included with the physical world in the need for removal and destruction. Jesus has given each person the opportunity to gain a place in an eternity that is formed out of God’s love, grace, and desire for an unending relationship with us. Eternity for us is found in and through Christ, and all that surrounds us in this world will find its own form of that same redemption by the word and the work of Christ upon His return to dwell upon it. All of this is a part of that great and rather mysterious thing that we can call God’s will. It does seem to me that God’s will is defined by certain big picture concepts. These include redemption, restoration, peacemaking, grace, and a form of love that is enduring and self-sacrificing. We engage with God’s will when we live in a manner that reflects these qualities and that is modeled after the life that Christ lived and the words of truth that God inspired to be provided to us in His Word. 

So, it does seem that this will that leads to eternity is firstly determined by the presence of Christ within an individual, and thus, it is made real and active as we submit our lives including all of our thoughts, words, and actions to Christ. I think that God intends for eternity to touch this world today primarily through the way that followers of Christ interact with all aspects of this fallen and failing world; so, it is vitally important for us to be aligned with God’s will as we go about each and every day of our lives. Thus, God’s will is a very large and dynamic thing. It is not confined to specific areas of life or to certain relationships. It applies to everything that we might imagine, touch, or speak about. Christ’s hand of redemption is applied as we seek to abide in the presence of His Spirit and set aside our personal concerns and inhibitions in order to engage more fully with entering into Christ’s loving care of and for all that is broken and dying in our world. God’s will is played out in the salvation that each of His people enjoy, and it is carried out as we bring the fullness of Christ’s redemptive gospel message into the world where we live today.   

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Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4: 7

 

People want to be loved and to give love. It is something that we seek after and pursue with great energy and, at times, with singular focus. It is also something that we get very wrong, for broken relationships and heartache are very common. We expect that we will be frustrated and saddened by the way that these sorts of feelings change and turn sad for us. This process of feeling strong emotion in both friendship and in romance is a part of growing into adulthood, and so is that aspect of it all wherein those relationships end and so we learn to move on to the anticipation of other, new relationships. Some of us are able to settle into friendships and romances that last for the duration of our lives, and some of us never find those people who are with us throughout the journey that is ahead.

 

It seems that John has learned to see love from a different point of view. His understanding of love is that it starts with God and then is poured out into and over people. When John addresses his audience as beloved, he is referring to the fact that he loves them because God loves them and also because God loves him in an abundant and unending manner. When Jesus summoned the young man named John from his good life as a fisherman and called him to follow along the hard road in the company of the Messiah, that was an act performed and perpetuated by love. John’s entire life from that day forward was defined by the love that he saw Jesus pour out onto the world so that John continued to do the same for the remainder of his long and productive life. In many respects, the verse here could have been John’s so-called life verse, for it exemplifies the way that Christ led him to think, feel, and act in every aspect of his life.

 

Now John is granting us insight into the eternal wisdom that has guided his journey. God truly loves every one of us, and He desires that we would turn to Him in order to become close and intimate with Him. In Christ, we can know a love that has no limits, that sets no conditions, and that will not become cold and distant. Through the presence of Christ in us we can learn to love in this same manner, and this is the love that can change the way that we engage with the rest of the world. First, like John, we must accept the reality of being loved by God, of being His beloved daughter or son, for it is this love that softens our rough edges and grants us the gift of grace that makes it possible to accept and to learn to love a wide range of other people. Then we can give the love that we are receiving away and pour it out into the world around us. It is God’s love that provides balance to righteousness, and Christ’s love gives us a heavenly perspective on mercy, justice, and seeking after peace in these troubled days. In Christ we are given such an exquisite abundance of love that its overflowing from us can break down walls of division, overturn political rancor, and bring peace where enmity has always ruled the day.

One thing I have asked of the LORD,

that will I seek after;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD

and to inquire in his temple.

Psalm 27: 4

 

So, David liked to hang out at church, in his case that would be the Temple, and while there, he enjoyed the beauty of his surroundings. This seems rather straight forward and simple to understand. I enjoy the architecture, the vivid colors of stained glass, and the richness of ancient tapestries just as much as David probably did. While the location has some value and the picture that we have of ancient temple appointments and décor is exquisite, none of that matters all that much; plus, the great Temple was built by David’s son Solomon. The beauty that is resident in that house of God comes from a source other than the building itself. The Lord was tangibly present with David there, and He is likewise with us today when we visit our own places of worship. However, He was also with David during all of the other hours of his days, and our Lord is in our midst throughout all times of day and night as well. David knew that wisdom and guidance for life came from the Lord and out of His Word, and for us today this has all become even more true and accessible. The Lord’s greatest beauty is seen in His nature and character, and He has provided us with untold millions of examples of this beauty to view and to interact with.

 

The beauty of the Lord is perhaps most profoundly visible in His presence within people. God tells us that He has created each of us in His image. Even with the remarkable variety that is present in those images, we are each and every one of us a reflection of God, Himself. This is true of our skin, eyes, and hair. This idea is also valid when it comes to the sound of our voices, the language that we speak, our personalities, and thought processes. There is nothing about who we are that is not touched by the hand of the Creator. The greatest challenge that we all face in dealing with other people and also with living in our own skin is that we have all been touched by the brokenness and the corrupting influence of sin. All people are born into life as fallen beings who are granted breath with that sinful bent in our hearts and minds so that each of us enters life as a person who is destined for the death of unending separation from our God. This brokenness and separation is the source for all of our anger, violence, disease, and other forms of strife and oppression. That is why Christ came and defeated sin’s hold upon us; so, now all people who choose Christ can be redeemed and brought into the unending presence of the Lord.

 

In Christ, David’s desire and request become our own reality, for the Lord takes our lives and relocates us from the world of our birth and places us into His unending presence. In that new dwelling place, the beauty of the Lord is with us in many ways. His Word provides comfort, wisdom, guidance, and encouragement, and the Spirit speaks all of that and more into our minds and hearts. In Christ, we are granted the ability to see the world around us with the clarity of righteousness as our filter and with Christ’s balancing love, grace, and redemptive zeal as our purpose. When we see with Christ’s eyes, the beauty of this world is found in its people as it is defined for us by our ability to see God’s image portrayed on and in each of them. As we reside in the presence of Christ, we dwell in the fulfillment of David’s desire, for we are truly surrounded by the beauty of the Lord when we see His Creation through God’s eyes of love.

 

 

 

I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud.

1 Corinthians 10: 1a

 

Here are few short thoughts on this idea of our entire existence being played out “under the cloud”. Paul is discussing the well known story of how, as the Israelites were led by Moses through the desert after their escape from Egypt, they were actually led by the tangible presence of God. The Lord was made visible to them all by a cloud that went before them as they traveled and that hovered over them when they camped. It was the cloud that dictated their movement; thus, God was visibly the leader of the movement of His people.

 

In my life I often fail to recognize the cloud that is hovering over me. It is not usually as physically apparent as was the one that lead the Israelites. Additionally, I can be really bad at responding to the movement that God’s presence is guiding for me, for there are times when I am left standing and wondering what I should be doing and where I need to be going while the Lord has been trying to get my attention and has already laid out a very clear direction for me. It would seem that, unfortunately, I am following more in the stubborn and unresponsive footsteps of my ancestors than I am yielding to God’s will for my life.

 

However, God remains faithful and is unrelenting in His desire to see His people living in the center of His will. Thus, the cloud that hovers over all of God’s children is the glory of His Spirit. This is the same Spirit that also lives within our hearts; so, the only thing that gets in the way of our ability to live in the center of that same glory is our lack of comprehension of the Lord’s presence, which is like that of the Israelites in that it stems from our failure to trust in God completely. If I am willing to look with open eyes and a yielded heart and am responsive to the infinite potential that God has given to my life; then, I am ready to follow my Lord into a life filled with His miracles as His presence leads and directs my steps to Christ’s destinations for my days.

 

Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.

1 Corinthians 10: 24

 

My world may be just fine. I have everything well-ordered, as the rules that govern my way of living are set and they grant me a sense of security and a barrier against much of the chaos that is out there beyond them. This might sound a bit harsh at first hearing, but I think that there are far more of us than otherwise who, when confronted with the truth of our way of handling our engagement with the people outside of our own homes, can say that we don’t sort, sift, differentiate, and hold at arms-length some of them based upon our set of criteria for who is worthy or safe and who is not so acceptable. This type of segregation is a natural result of the broken nature of our world, for there are real dangers and perils running about in this place. It is also caused by our own sinful lack of trust in God and by our false concepts of superiority and human worth, which are also the result of our sinful rejection of God’s righteousness, justice, and truth.

 

Regardless of what I might try to tell myself about the conduct of my life and regarding the order that I have created in it, my house is not so clean and my outlook on the world is not the same as God’s. He sees people with the eye of the loving Father who desires to be close to all of us. Christ came, lived righteously, suffered, sacrificed, and rose for everyone. There were no limitations placed upon the groups of people who were included in Paul and Silas’ simple statement to their jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Christ calls to everyone, and we are not given the authority, the wisdom, or the capacity to sift them out or to choose the ones that we are comfortable in caring about or engaging with. As we are in Christ, so we are to view others as He does, and Christ does not see skin color, differentiate based upon wealth or gender, consider the sound of a person’s speech, or pull away from the way that people live or even the intensity of their rejection of Him. Chris came to save, and He calls us to follow Him into all of this world with the same intent in our hearts.

 

The good that Paul is describing here is a form of heart’s desire that reflects the love of Christ, that particularly passionate love that has saved us from the living death that we deserve and from an eternity apart from all that is loving and good that we were destined to know. This is the goodness that is made complete in the presence of Christ and that is made visible and tangible in our world by the way that we choose to love each and every one of the people who we encounter in life. I also think that Christ wants us to go beyond encounter in our approach to loving these others. He went out into the places where they lived, He entered their homes and engaged with their stories of life, and the Savior brought His healing touch and poured out the water of life in these hard and desperate places of the soul. We, too, can go there, across the fences and beyond the racial, economic, cultural, and religious barriers and into the lives of our neighbors. We can bring the goodness that is freedom in Christ that we are learning to enjoy into the lives of the others in our world, and by so doing, we are made richer and they have the opportunity to say yes to the Savior and share in the riches of eternity.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.

John 3: 16

 

After a long journey, the band of travelers from the east arrive in the land of David; they go to Herod, for as the religious ruler of the country they thought that they could get specific directions to the location of the baby king that they had come to honor. But Herod was interested in personal gain, in power, and not in the souls of men; so, they went away from him, and they stayed away from his evil intent. These men were the philosophers and the spiritual counselors to their home country. They studied the stars and they predicted the future. They were the elite thinkers of their culture. Here they were in a foreign land, and they were very far from home; yet, the sense of adventure and the excitement of encountering the fulfillment of their prophetic studies had to be intoxicatingly powerful.

 

We, too, have all been on a long journey through life. We have all encountered various challenges and trials and roadblocks along the way. Yet, I have found that the presence of Christ remains constant throughout all. His glory shines even brighter than that star that the magi followed. Christ never stops calling to all people just as He has never stopped calling to me. Christ cares deeply about what I do and how I am living; still, these actions and thoughts of mine have never made any difference to Him in regards to His desire to lead me to truth, to integrity, to righteousness, and to love. Since I have known Jesus on the profoundly personal basis that He desires for all, the journey to God’s presence is a very short one, for His Spirit is a part of who I now am. Still, that journey can seem like the longest and the most challenging expedition that I could imagine; yet, that perception is my problem. God is here with me always; it is my heart that tries to shut him out. I am the one that tries to run and hide from Him and His truth.

 

For people who haven’t come to the decision to enter into a relationship with Jesus, the journey to Him is also, in fact, very short, for it is accomplished in the heart, not with the feet, and He is there waiting to enter into it with everyone. There are no special words and no magic spells required. God does love everyone, and Christ wants to complete that love by infusing every one’s heart with it. So, like the Magi, we come to the presence of Christ bringing gifts to honor the king, He wants us to bring Him a gift also. God wants us to give him the gift of our lives. He wants us to present our willingness to let him have control of our thoughts and our actions, and He asks for us to give Him our openness and willingness to live for Him. In turn, God gives us everything. He gives us His hope, grace, comfort, freedom, honesty, compassion, serenity, understanding, companionship, majesty, and joy. God gives us all of this and so much more, and all of this is ours always and forever.

 

So, I ask myself, where am I on this journey today? What is it that I am holding onto out of fear or stubbornness or some other personal motive; what does God want me to lay at His feet as my gift of self? As I fall down before the King in worship, I challenge myself to accept Christ’s gifts to me, to live like they are my reality, and like the Magi did, I am to go into my own world to tell of this gracious love that fills my heart and that gives me my true purpose in life.

 

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Philippians 4: 8

 

The human mind is amazing. We are capable of processing vast amounts of information and of managing a life that is lived out in an ever-changing and fast paced world. The thoughts that we have often come at a pace that is dizzying in its nature; yet, we seem to mostly keep then flowing in, through, and out of our minds in such a manner as to maintain life’s balance and processes. This is true because of the remarkable and the marvelous way that God designed and made us, but the quality and the nature of that design and its creation are still not enough to live in the fullest appreciation and application of all that we were made to be. We all need the presence and perspective of the Creator as an essential aspect of daily life.

 

This is where Paul’s exhaustive list of things to think upon comes into play, for he is describing many of the attributes, characteristics, and qualities of God in this recitation of what we should focus our minds upon. For me, thinking about these highly desirable values and life processes and their outcomes leads me to consideration of their source. So, it brings me to meditating upon God, Himself. The Lord granted His truth, honor, justice, purity, love, and all else that is good to His Creation; thus, to us. In kind, all that flows out of these qualities is also something that God has imparted to us and into this world, and the ultimate means that God used to do this is found in the coming of Jesus Christ into our world and the subsequent granting of His Spirit to travel through life with us.

 

So, we can fill our minds with the cares, worries, and concerns of our days and focus our considerable mental capacity upon solving and resolving these issues on our own, or we can take time out from all that we are dealing with and allow for the voice of eternal wisdom and truth to speak to us. God is fully aware of all that is on our minds and in our hearts. He desires to walk into each and every aspect of our days with us, and His understanding and knowledge is greater than any challenge that we may face. God’s Word provides the guidance that is required for all that life brings our way, and His Spirit is with us to reveal its deeper wisdom to us in each of the circumstances that we encounter. It is up to each of us to turn to God and to slow the frantic pace of life down so that we can step out of the rest of life and listen to God’s words of truth, love, and hope as He speaks into those marvelous minds that He especially designed to hear His voice.