The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

Of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27: 1

 

There are some things that we should not forget. People should always carry identification and some means of paying for the things that they might require along the way during the day. It is good to remember where you parked the car, if driving one, and it is even more important to know where you live. Recognizing and celebrating the birthdays of people who are important to us is a very good thing to do, and being on time for appointments is proper, polite, and saves us from paying the doctor even when we didn’t benefit from that person’s knowledge and wisdom. Yet, above all of these worthwhile remembrances, there stands one that is both crucial and essential for successful living, and that is remembering the Lord in all things and in every way for all of the remaining days of my life.

 

The Lord is the one who puts perspective on all of the rest of these places, actions, and people. He brings wisdom to bear on the way that I evaluate what is important and sift through what is needful today. It might seem trivial to consider that every element of my day is something that involves my relationship with God, but He sees it all quite differently. For God actually wants to be a part of the way that I process data and make decisions. His presence in my life should reshape my thought processes and the decisions that I make as well; while His love and attitude of righteous care and concern influence and even reshape the manner in which I think about others and form the thoughts behind my words and actions.

 

This sort of deep, personal, and total relationship with God is the foundation for confident forward movement into life that also holds other people as valuable and precious. The Lord’s prompting and guidance bring the sort of wisdom and understanding into all of the interactions that we have during the day so that even the most difficult of people might be understood and even valued and appreciated as God views them. The fearlessness that the Lord grants to His people is not so much one that comes out of conquest or that is based upon His promise of victory over the world, for it is founded upon Christ’s complete conquest over the forces of this world with their legacy of sin and death. In Christ we are granted the boldness that we need to face adversaries with love as our primary weapon and with understanding as our relational guidance. Through Christ we can face the day with confidence in His desire to guide us safely through it all as we seek to care about and for everyone that we meet along the way. So, remembering who my Lord is and what His heart desires matters far more than anything else that I might hold foremost in my mind today.

We urge you, brothers, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.

1 Thessalonians 5: 14

 

This is something that I don’t really want to admit. Yet, I have been all of the people that are described in the first half of this verse, and my way of behaving has certainly required God and the people around me to need to exercise patience. There may not have been any instances when I picked up the furniture and threw it around the room, but I have been angry and frustrated to the point of acting very badly in the presence of others. My personal failure to trust God and to proceed through life with the courage that is fueled by this trust has happened far too many times. The utter exhaustion that comes from living in this hostile world has taken all of the energy and the will to keep going out of my legs on several occasions.

 

These are all times when God’s direct and personal involvement in my life has been incredibly meaningful. The Lord never leaves me in a weakened condition for any longer than I require to understand my responsibility for my situation and to trust in God’s answer for it. Frequently, the truth that brings me out of the troubled state is provided by people who seek and understand the Lord’s wisdom, and who are willing to follow Christ’s model of engaging honestly in people’s lives. It seems that frequently Christ’s voice is heard coming from the mouths of people in my community of faith.

 

The hardest aspect of this process of engagement is probably God’s requirement that we do it with patience. When I have taken the personal risk that is required to enter into a hard conversation with someone, I am ready for that person to embrace my insight and wisdom and just get on with it. However, this is not the way that most of us function. Real change of the sort that beings about Christ’s transformative living takes time. Truly walking through life with others demands that we set aside personal agendas and timelines and embrace God’s view of people’s needs. In the end, God wants us to do what is of primary importance to Him; that is, He wants us to enter into true relationship with others.

 

So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them.

Genesis 1: 27

 

When people who know what they are talking about discuss the remarkable thing that we call the Body of Christ, they don’t start in Genesis. But to me, at least to my sometimes rather twisted and convoluted way of seeing things, this is a highly appropriate place to start a discussion about the bringing together of people in a manner that is ordained, orchestrated, and operated by God and that functions by the agency of the Holy Spirit. When I look back at this point in history that we humans can count as our beginning, there are three things that strike me as being very special. First, our creation is the very intentional and special work of God; second, the sameness and the variety of who and what we are was a part of that creative design; and third, we were all made in something that is referred to as the image of God.

 

It is also clear from this very earliest account of our existence that people are not intended to be alone. We are relational creatures. God’s creation design and plan provided that we would have the companionship of other people, and He also established us in deep and intimate relational communion with Him. As we go about the processes of living, individual people are seldom, if ever, fully equipped for all that will come our way. We need others in order to handle it all successfully. Yet, even more important than the functional and the physical aspects of life, we need the wisdom, insight, and strength of others when it comes to facing the emotional and the spiritual challenges that this world throws at us. We were made to be like this by our Creator.

 

As we join with other people in the sort of fellowship that has Christ at its center, we are bringing together something that is much greater than any summation of our individual parts. Although we are each made in God’s image, none of us are the complete expression and representation of who and what God is. However, gathered together we are something quite unique and extraordinary in our world. When the Spirit of Christ acts to bring people into any fellowship, He grants the gifts of the Spirit that are needed by their calling to the people in that group. Another way of looking at this is that Christ brings the right people together for whatever it is that He desires to see accomplished. When we gather in any sort of fellowship of faith, we are surrounded by God’s own image in human form, and as we stand and serve together in the will of the Father, Christ’s Spirit will bind us together with unbreakable bonds of love.

It is the Lord who reveals the profound and the hidden things;

He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.

Daniel 2: 22

 

There are many things in this life which are too deep to be readily grasped. Other things have the keys to understanding them well hidden. Some of these are the products of the hands of people; while, many of them are matters of human behavior and dwell in the province of the human heart and soul. Unfortunately, it seems to me that I get in the most trouble and have the greatest personal challenges when I am operating in this murky realm of grasping what others think, believe, and feel.

 

My greatest problem in this area is that I think that I can solve the mysteries of other people’s deepest selves myself. So, I make assumptions and reach conclusions about what is motivating another and about how to respond to that person, Then, I formulate a plan and act upon it based on my own understanding and its flawed wisdom. All of this has a success rate that is far from spectacular. There is one and only one source of true understanding regarding all things and situations that are deep, complex, and vital. The Lord is the Creator of the human heart and mind, and He is the keeper of our souls. If we want to know how to respond to another, whether good or bad, or we need to know how to communicate with someone, the starting place for it all is in prayerful conversation with God.

 

My Lord knows the dark corners and the hidden recesses of my own heart, and He understands how all that is concealed there has a powerful influence on the way that I deal with others. God is also intimately familiar with this same terrain in the hearts and the minds of everyone. He wants people to connect with each other in love, peace, and with a spirit of reconciliation. So, the Lord will provide each of us who seek after His wisdom and understanding with a clear perspective on how to interact with the people in our lives, and as His truth fills our minds, the Spirit of God makes us into beacons of righteous light.

 

O LORD of Hosts,

blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Psalm 84: 12

 

Trust is a big deal. As we go through life we learn a lot about it, and I fear, that much of what we learn is not very positive. As people disappoint us we learn to expect the let down. As they betray our trust in them, we learn to be self-protective and skeptical. Because trust is so often broken in our world, when groups of people come together to work as a team they often spend significant amounts of time and put out great effort in learning to trust each other. Even these hard earned bonds are usually rather fragile. They come apart at the slightest intrusion of suspicion or doubt.

 

Such is the nature of the world where we live. Thus, we all enter into lives where the pain of isolation and the weakness that separation causes are normal for us. Yet, this is not how God made us. In the Lord’s work of creating people in His image, He made us to be relational beings who engage in deep and intimate ways with God and with other people. Trust is foundational to that sort of engagement. We need to be willing to expose our needs and ourselves in a manner that is profoundly vulnerable in order to operate at a deep and a lasting level in relationships. Likewise, we must be open and trustworthy with the deep ideas and feelings that others bring to us.

 

Our greatest and best capacity to trust and to be trustworthy starts with the way that we view God and our relationship with Him. My experience and that of innumerable people in God’s Word is that trustworthiness is a fundamental characteristic of God. He takes my deepest, darkest, and most painful revelations and provides me with truth that engages the struggle and with resources to live fully and well. My capacity to trust other people is grounded in my trust in God. I know that He has my back, and my front, and everything in the middle. I also recognize the fact that the Lord desires that my relationships would be strong and healthy. He wants people to stand together in our faith in the God who is trustworthy, and He works with us to build those relationships.

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

 

We have been told that “what the world needs is love” and “love is what makes the world go around.” We can whistle, hum, and sing these words all day long, but do we believe them? The real challenge comes into play when we need to demonstrate that we actually believe that we are loved greatly; truly accept the love that others have for us; or give it unconditionally to anyone else. It is when we are faced with fully living out lives of love that most of us fall short.

 

Loving others and accepting love makes us vulnerable and we feel exposed. So we spend too much time hiding out in the bushes in fear of what God and others may see when he comes upon our exposed nakedness. Of course, God has already seen everything, and He has already committed to love us totally. Still, when we see someone who is in pain, tears welling in the eyes, we turn away as we pretend to hear our named being called from across the room. There is the co-worker whose life is falling apart, and we nod and give an empty reassurance that “it will all work out”; then, we try to be certain that we are not alone with that person again.

 

Yes, it is true that the world needs love. That has always been true; yet, it is a basic truth of nature that God has always met every real need that exists. We were created with loving care, and our Creator has loved us absolutely ever since. We need to accept that fact and to accept our responsibility to open our hearts to others. The willingness to care for those around us in this risky, very vulnerable manner is one of those attributes that should distinguish those who know Christ from others. Consider who you will seek out today to care about, to listen to, to get to know better. Pray for the courage to step into the pain that is in another’s heart. In Christ, we are called upon to live so that others can truly “know we are Christians because of our love”.