And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

John 17: 3

Although Jesus is in the presence of the disciples and some of His other close friends and followers, He is talking only to the Father at this time. These words are uttered during a time of deep and reflective prayer. There is little time left on Jesus’ earthly clock; so, the terrible, marvelous events of His final days of dwelling among us are already starting to unfold. During these hours Jesus is acutely aware of the fact that there is much more to life than just what people experience on our own. Life extends beyond the bounds of a fleshly existence on earth, and even that portion of our time can be greatly expanded in its depth, value, and scope by virtue of the presence of a relationship with God. 

It might seem that Jesus is being very narrow in His approach to the subject of knowing God, but He is speaking from a position of knowledge and of authority. This is the point in which our faith comes into play, for without faith in the truth of what Jesus said and belief in who He is, He is nothing more than a wise person or philosopher and He might be a serious nutcase with His claims about being from God and being, in fact, God. Yet, faith dictates that Jesus was God from before the inception of time, that He was God walking upon this earth and breathing the same air as each of us takes in, and that He continues beyond a human death as He dwells again in that heavenly realm as Lord, and Sovereign King ruling with the Father over all of creation. This is the reality that Jesus was describing in His prayer.

This is also the reality that Jesus invites each of us to join. We are asked to give up the half-formed lives that we were given at birth and join with Him as He grants to us the gift of full knowledge of the one true God and Father of all. It is at this time that life actually begins. As we leave behind the broken and partially realized priorities and allegiances that we have held onto as our anchors for daily functioning and surrender all to Christ, we are reborn into the presence of the love, grace, mercy, and truth that flesh out a full image of who and of what God is and of how He works in our lives. In turning toward God we are also granted understanding of His will and purpose for our lives. In so doing, the Lord provides each of us with the wisdom, understanding, and strength that we will need to enter into that calling and to live it out for the balance of the earthly days that we will be allotted. So, Jesus, in those final earthly hours, was actually praying for me and for you as He calls upon us to leave this world behind and join with Him in the eternal living that is at the center of a relationship with God. 

By God’s doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

1 Corinthians 1: 30, 31 

There has always been a plan. God was never confused, caught short, or had his balance disturbed by the thoughts, decisions, or actions of angels or of people. He created us in a way that we could and would reach our own conclusions about what was best for us, and He allows us the freedom to follow our own course through life. Everyone starts out with the potential to live in a close, intimate relationship with God, but we all also need to decide that this is what we truly want to do. Thus, we were given Jesus to serve as the point of connection and the focus of the eternal decision that we all get to make. 

When we accept that Jesus is God, our Lord and Savior from the evil that controlled our hearts and minds from birth until that moment of yielding to Him, we start a journey that is based on the sort of deep truths, wisdom, and understanding that can only come from God, Himself. Our nature is changed into one that is attuned to the character of perfect good that only exists in God and in those who, as His redeemed, are filled with the Spirit of Christ. The key for many of us is to recognize our need to actually let this new character and identity become the dominate one. So often we continue to seek to live just as we always have, and we find that our sense of worth and our concepts of success are defined by what we do and what we have rather than in who we serve. 

We can learn to accept God’s wisdom and let His Spirit point us toward Jesus and His wise truth about the important things in life. These are the things that have true, lasting, and eternal importance. These are the qualities and characteristics that bring love, grace, compassion, and integrity to the top of our daily priority list. When we define our achievement in life in terms of how well we have served Christ, and we understand that serving Christ means that we need to love the people of this world and sacrifice our selves to that service; then, heaven is given back another piece of this world. Then we are truly standing on God’s holy ground.

“For behold, I will raise up against you a nation,

   O house of Israel,” declares the LORD, the God of hosts;

“and they shall oppress you from Lebo-hamath

   to the Brook of the Arabah.”

Amos 6: 14

God is the perfect example of the engaged and loving parent and also of a truly good friend. He is willing to enter into those hard conversations and deal with the issues that everyone else tries to avoid. This can be very unpleasant, and it can lead to relational tensions that are monumental in their scale. However, the Lord is fully aware of the fact that we all sin and fall far short of the righteousness that God’s standards set out for us to follow. He recognizes with equal clarity that these times and situations of engaging in the selfishness of sin are harmful to us and to the world around us if they are left unchecked. Departing from God’s path in small ways can start people along a course that grows ever further off track to the point that recovery becomes almost impossible. We can get to a place in our journey of life where there are no visible points of reference left to sight and to turn toward.

The Lord does not want to see any of His people end up on the far side of the world with no means of finding our way home again. So, He intervenes in our lives. This is what He is promising to do in the days of the prophet Amos. At the time when Amos wrote out these words, the Lord was still waiting upon the repentance of His people in Israel and Judah. Now, God was certainly aware of the fact that they would not listen to these pleas, and Amos was not the only human voice that the Lord inspired to speak out about the dangers of continuing to follow their own sinful ways. Still, stubborn is stubborn, and self-serving people can be very set in the path that they have chosen to take. We know that both of these Hebrew nations would be overthrown and the people taken from their homes into captivity and slavery in a foreign land. Sometimes, harsh measures are needed in order to bring wandering people back into relationship with God.

Are we in our world today in a place where this sort of extreme measure is the only thing left for God to do in order to get us to turn away from our self-determined journey and fall upon our knees in repentance before the Lord? I am not a prophet, and God has certainly not provided me with an image of His future plans or of the details of the way that He will work out His promise of redemption for our world. I do know that the Lord has a plan for the restoration of the purity and the glory of His original creative handiwork upon the earth. I believe that I am correct when I look around and see the angry, violent, and unloving nature of so much of what is happening upon the face of our globe that God is more than displeased with it all. For I am convinced that God’s heart is breaking and that His patience must be running out at the sight of our depravity and lack of just treatment of each other. So, the engaged father and the good friend that is the Lord is not likely to withhold His judgement for much longer. It is time for people who know Christ to speak up, to act boldly in love, and to become well known in our world as people who proclaim the truth of the gospel of Christ in order to bring a foretaste of the Lord’s redemptive work into contact with the world that we touch.  

In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.

Ephesians 1: 7

So, here is an admission, and it involves an amazing fact of life that I find personally too true as it is way too frequently my current state of affairs. That is, even after many years of living in a relationship with God through Jesus, I am still in need of redeeming. I seem to find myself stuck up to the axles in mud holes that I should have and certainly could have avoided. Among these slick and slimy places are the situations when I am disagreeable and cause other people pain; and then there is the way that I waste the talents, gifts, and resources that God has blessed me with. What I find even more disturbing is that this list barely scratches the surface of the ways that I continually test the Lord’s redemptive grace.

Yet, He never stops coming to my side with His sleeves rolled up ready to do the heavy work of getting me out of the deep mud of sin. The Lord brings the cleansing of His truth into my life, and He shows me how to move forward with the ability to avoid the old errors. Christ does much more than this, too; for, He doesn’t just take me back to where I was before; instead, the Lord’s view of restoration moves me ever closer to Him and makes me continually more like the God-image bearer that I was created to be.

It is important to remember that the grace of Christ is greater, deeper, and more prevalent than any bad actions or misdeeds that we can ever engage in; also, we need to focus on the fact that God wants to walk with us through this life and that He seeks to bring the sin-healing properties of redemption into each of our lives. Whatever the current state of affairs in your or in my world, Christ’s blood has already paid the price for our admission into the continual presence of God and for our complete acceptance there. We can embrace that fact as our personal reality; then, we are able to start seeking the redemptive changes that will continue to fill our days fully with the sweet aroma of Christ’s righteousness.  

To you, O God of my fathers,

    I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and power.

Daniel 2: 23

Everyone has a family history of faith, and it doesn’t matter if your parents and your grandparents knew God in a deep and an intimate way or not. For each of us who does know the Lord in this personally redemptive way is a direct descendant and a personal participant in a long line of people who have likewise been close to God. Their stories and my story are entwined by Christ’s redemptive love. I am truly thankful to God for the way that He has always been the active seeker of the hearts of people, and I am very blessed by the way that He has worked trough these people to make Himself more accessible and better known to me. God has caused others to write down the story of how they came to know Him, of what the Lord has done in their lives, and of the transformation that His love brought about in them. Then, as I read His Word, God continually speaks to my mind to provide me with an understanding of these stories that makes them applicable to my life.

God wants to be understood and clearly available to all people. He doesn’t need the type of power that comes from being obscure; so, He makes the process of entering into a relationship with Him very simple. After we truly know Him, God stays with us through the entire journey of life, and His loving grace continues to make it possible for even a person as flawed and weak as I am to stay in close relationship with Him. Thus, I am thankful to God for His love for me, for His desire to be close to me, and for His continued interest in my life. Additionally, I praise God for the amazing ways that He works in my heart and my mind on a daily basis to bring about an on-going process of growth and of movement toward His will.

It is through this process of recognition of all that God is in our lives that we come to a place where we are made open to the interaction of His Spirit in us. As I look at the stories of my spiritual fathers that are told in God’s Word and as I reflect on the odyssey that is my own life, I am led to see the never ending and unfailing touch of the Lord’s hand at every turn of those roads. Knowing God is to know His power, mercy, grace, and love. Truly knowing God places me in a position to humbly allow Him to be my strength throughout the day. His presence encourages me when there is doubt in my mind, and His strength upholds me when the things that I am encountering are too big, loud, and ominous for me to see my way through. Finally, I also have a long history of God’s unfailing faithfulness to look upon so that I can count myself truly blessed and fully supported by my Savior, Lord, and King.

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.

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Psalm 90: 1

 

There is a famous line from the Wizard of Oz that states, “There is no place like home.” This is a very true statement, and when you throw in the idea that “Home is where the heart is”, the thought behind this ancient prayer is complete. Because of the natures that we possess from birth, people are wanders and nomads, for we are continually looking for that greener spot to settle down and for a better way to fulfill our need for importance, significance, and to find a sense of belonging. Even after we accept Christ as our answer to the homeless condition of our hearts, we still continue to respond to the urge to go off on our own and to seek out a different and a better way to live than the one that God wants us to follow.

 

So, God continues to keep a light on for us to find our way back to Him. Yet His light is different from that low watt night light that our parents may have left on in an otherwise darkened hallway. The light that the Lord displays for a wanderer’s heart to see is the very active and dynamic one that is His Spirit, and He doesn’t just sit at home and worry or fret about our situation, He comes looking for us. Christ has no fear or concern about going into the dark streets and the rough alleys of our lives, and He never stops calling and appealing to a wandering soul to come back to that true home that provides comfort, safety, and restoration.

 

No matter where I am today or what condition my life is in, it is important for me to realize that my home is found in the presence of the Lord. Christ regularly demonstrates to me that His presence is continual and constant. If there is any sense of separation or distance in my relationship with God, it is always caused by my actions and attitudes, and that estrangement is the product of my own wandering heart. The Lord wants me to return to Him, and He takes me home with the quickness of prayer and the suddenness of His forgiveness. Then, when I return to God’s perfect place of calm and peace for my soul, He always seems to have ready for me the sort of food for my soul that I need to bring back my strength and to encourage me to set out on Christ’s path of service in God’s kingdom

 

 

 

 

Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord, we have an everlasting rock.

Isaiah 26: 4

 

Trust can be hard thing to do; yet, we all do it continually throughout every day. We trust the floor to hold us up when we get out of bed in the morning, we trust the water that we drink to not poison us, and we place trust in numerous human relationships that we engage in during the day. It is the ability to trust that often defines just how we negotiate our way through life. It is the capacity to trust that greatly impacts our ability to enjoy the deeply felt freedom that God wants us to know. Where we place our trust defines us and it refines us.

 

When the stresses of living are resulting in that form of tension that seems to grip every fiber of the body, and it seems that it is impossible to find a clear and reasoned thought in your mind, you may be experiencing a trust-deprived time in your relationship with God. It is our all too human tendency to want and to need to own all of the answers to each of the situations that we encounter in life. After all, we were designed and equipped by God, Himself, to navigate our way through this world. However, the problem with this thinking is that it leaves out the most important part of the Lord’s plan for us. In God’s design for living and in His plan for life, we are also intended to be actively involved in a relationship of trust with Him, and this is where true and lasting freedom is found.

 

The sort of trust that allows us to face into the hard issues and the difficult uncertainties of life is founded on an understanding of who God is and of how much He cares for each of us. The Lord is that rock solid foundation under me that will not fail and that can not be knocked out from under my feet by any forces or pressures. He is the rock that will crush all of Satan’s attempts to attack my spirit. The Lord is the grinding stone of truth that will polish my mind so that the lies that creep into it are turned into dust to be blown away by the refreshing breeze of wisdom and understanding that comes from Christ’s Spirit. God is my Lord; He is the rock solid fortress where I can dwell always in complete safety and from which I can boldly live out my freedom.

 

For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

2 Corinthians 5: 1

 

As we live in this world today, Paul’s first statement above about the destruction of our earthly tents seems quite real and totally personal. Everyday and all around us we hear about and even experience events that take take hold of our lives with the iron grip of chaos, destruction, and loss. People’s lives are turned upside down, and we are thrown about by forces that we don’t control and by circumstances that slip up on us with the stealth of absolute darkness and the swiftness of demonic zeal. These events can take our homes, destroy our churches, and even shake our faith to the point of serious questioning of our relationship with God.

 

The Lord knows our world just as He knew the very similar one that Paul lived in; for, you see, the forces of evil have been loose on earth since the early days of our human history, and Satan wants to take our weak spirits into his hands and give us the sort of trials that strike us in our areas of greatest vulnerability. The Lord protects us, and He strengthens us so that we can handle these attacks. He also promises us with a certainty that is unshakable that this life and this world are not all that we have. In fact, the most magnificent structures and the greatest thoughts that we can enjoy in this life are nothing more than dim shadows of what we will experience in our next lives with God in Heaven.

 

Therefore, we need to remain hopeful despite everything that is happening in our world, and we need to continue to seek the face of God while in the center of our circumstances. It is this solid, tangible hopefulness that sets God’s people apart from the rest of humanity, and it is this ability to see beyond the moment to an eternal perspective that keeps us going on during times when our immediate world has been turned on its side. Our families, friends, neighbors, and communities are desperately looking for hopeful signs in these troubled times; so, people of faith who stay focused on the Lord’s promises can bring the light of salvation into their lives and the hope of eternity to their souls.

 

“The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” Jesus

John 10: 10

 

If you have ever had anything stolen from you, you know how it feels. Although the circumstances of the theft and the personal importance of the items that were taken dictate the magnitude of the impact, there is always a very real and highly personal sense that someone has harmed you and that your world has been invaded, and it is the sort of feeling that lasts well after the event is done and the visible damage is repaired. This must be how God felt when Satan invaded His relationship with people, for evil literally broke in to the sacred heart of that relationship, and through deception, lies, and our own weakness, he took light and life from us, and Satan caused distance to come into that marvelously close connection with God that had been its essential nature.

 

However, the Lord is a lot like one of the characters in any number of films where someone is grievously harmed and then proceeds to search out the evil doer and to take them out; you know the story type, the revenge genre. Yet, God is even more into the thought and the actions of rescue rather than those of revenge, for He comes after everyone, every soul, which is taken from Him; therefore, the Lord comes after you, me, and all of the people that have ever or who will ever live. He is relentless in His pursuit, His plan is perfect, and the Lord will not stop trying to rescue us until we draw our last breath on this earth.

 

This rescue story doesn’t stop there; for, God wants us to live our lives in a state of peace, joy, and blessing that is like what He originally intended in the garden. The Lord wants us to be continually close to Him, and He continues to work to defeat Satan’s ongoing attempts to rob us of that quality of life. When there are things in our lives that interrupt and that disrupt that close relationship with God, they are usually caused by unresolved areas where sin has taken root in us. These are the aspects of ourselves that we need to submit to the Lord, and these are the issues that we need to open up about with our spiritual family so that we have the support, accountability, and strength to defeat the robber’s attempts to break into our lives. Jesus has already won the victory over Satan, and He has won that same victory for us; therefore, we simply need to trust Him and to claim what Christ intends to be ours.