Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a pledge.

2 Corinthians 5: 5

 

Promises, promises, promises; our lives are interlaced with commitments received and given, others that are kept or broken, and trust or lack of it that is developed through these interactions. Sometimes people fail to keep their pledges because they honestly tried yet failed to follow through. Other people can be disingenuous or even deliberately deceitful; and circumstances can conspire to defeat our best intentions. Additionally, we all know that governments and large corporate entities often lack the sort of fundamental integrity that makes their word good; at least that is how it too often seems.

 

Here, Paul gives us a promise from God that we can truly count on, for this is one that we can stake our lives upon. In the verses just before this one Paul has been discussing the fact that this life is filled with pain, struggles, and hardship and that the very fabric of our earthly existence is flawed, failing, and will be destroyed. He also has shared with us the fact that, in Christ, this is actually a good, hopeful, and desirable state of affairs. As the old person with our sin damaged and ravaged makeup is set aside and surrendered to the transformative work of Christ in and on us, we begin to be reformed into the new beings that God has planned for us to be. This process will not be completed in this life, and it is, at best, just a preview of the glory that we will know in eternity with Christ. Yet, God promises this new relationship with Him and this new life in His complete presence to everyone who accepts His gift of salvation through Jesus.

 

Throughout the history of human interaction with God, He has continually provided us with a clear picture of His intent to have an active and ongoing relationship with us, and the Lord has made the sincerity of His intentions known to us by making promises to us. This is another of those promises. Here God has done more than give His word. Here God has provided His presence in our lives as a tangible sign that functions much like the earnest money that we put down when we commit to make a major purchase such as a house. The Spirit of God is with us throughout our lives, and He is an ever present and very tangible reminder of the fact that God has promised to never leave us in this life, and He helps us to see and to hope for the promise of our eternal future.

 

For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Romans 1: 17

 

Faith does not exclusively belong to religious minded people, for everyone exercises faith all of the time and during each day of our lives. For example, it takes a form of faith to trust that the air outside is safe to breathe, faith is required by people to cross a bridge or to enter a large building, and faith in the basic civility of others is certainly needed when we venture forth into public and believe that we will not be harmed in the process. We live in an environment that operates out of faith in its fundamental design and construction, and in so doing, we actually enter into one of the most basic forms of faith in God, Himself. Now, in order to recognize this specific aspect of faith, it is necessary to accept that God, in some form, is the one who made, devised, or created the physical universe and all of its components. Still, this is something that most people do in fact embrace to some degree; so, they enter into faith in God as they accept His creator role.

 

Yet, faith in God has a considerably more important place in this listing of aspects of existence that are built upon some form of faith. For, faith in God does, in fact, lead to a reshaping of life, itself. It helps to define what it does mean to truly be alive. People were designed, devised, and made to live rightly in relationship to each other and to our world. This righteousness is the state of being that brings us into the most balanced and healthy of relationships with other people, and it allows us to engage in living in a manner that brings out all of the gifts, talents, and skills that we possess intellectually, emotionally, and physically. Righteousness requires us to look outside of our own wishes and wants and toward the needs and desires of others as we set our personal goals and objectives for life. It is righteousness that leads people into engagement with the world around us in order to understand points of view beyond our own and so that we can enter into bringing about healing for those aspects of creation that we have caused to become broken.

 

Acceptance the Gospel of Jesus Christ is an act of faith, for in so doing we enter into a relationship with God that is based upon agreement with Him and submission to Him in all matters concerning what it means to be a person and to live out that reality as a follower of Christ. The terms of this agreement are written in a book that was completed thousands of years ago by people who were far removed from our world today, and its content was given to those authors by the Spirit of God in a manner that always contains some form of the mystical in its description. Today we still submit to and engage with the Spirit as God reveals Himself and speaks truth, counsel, and encouragement to our hearts and our minds; so, in this process of engagement with God in all three of His persons, we are living squarely in the center of the arena that is defined as faith. This is the place where we are made alive by Christ in the ways that God designed us to be truly and fully alive, and this place called faith is where we are led by Christ into living out the calling that He has for us so that the days that we possess are full of His life-giving presence.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Psalm 16: 7

 

God blesses my life continually. He does this in so many delightful and valuable ways that I cannot start to list or to count them all. So, how can I even consider blessing the Lord? I doubt that any of my words or actions could possibly be significant enough to have an impact on God. Yet, He tells us that everything we do and even all of our thoughts are known to Him. The Lord has designed the world that we live in so that the way that we live impacts the quality of the life of those around us, too. God cares very deeply about the the way that we conduct ourselves in this world, and He desires for each of us to be drawn to Him in a way that causes us to be motivated to make our lives into living praise of Him.

 

The Spirit of God speaks continually to my heart and to my mind. He speaks words of encouragement, insight, direction, and hope. God’s voice leads my mind to think about His will, to act out of Christ’s love, and to grow daily in my understanding of the Lord’s plan for restoration of this world. The Lord is never distant or silent. He is always with me, and His wisdom never fails to apply to both my current situation and to the ones that I am going to face in the future.

 

In the amazingly relational way that God interacts with people, He tells us that He is blessed by our responses to Him. When we respond to the Lord by loving others, by extending grace, and by working to restore the broken hearts of this world, God is overjoyed. He expresses the sort of delight that a loving parent does when a child does well in school or in sports. So, the question remains, how can I bless the Lord? The answer remains the same as it has been throughout history, as my life is lived in a manner that brings the presence of Christ to others, God, Himself, is delighted.

 

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.

Romans 8: 9a

 

This is one of those highly personal and truly in my face statements. It would seem that Paul is really good at hitting me with thoughts that can penetrate to the depths of my heart. Note the twist of irony in his expression; “if indeed”. I think that he is saying that all of my times of living badly, particularly of thinking badly, should cause me to stop and to consider my life’s primary orientation. In essence, ask myself the question, “Does the Spirit of God live in me?” I do know that the Spirit does, I know it with the certainty of God’s promises to me, and this fact is confirmed through God’s Word and by His interaction with me every day of my life. Yet, I can still act like the spiritually dead person that I no longer am.

 

It is not that I should expect the temptations and the challenging times to disappear. They will always be with me. It is my response to them that is in question. The Spirit of God gives me a lot of room to navigate through my world as I choose. He also gives me wisdom and insight to do it without crashing into too many walls and causing harm to myself and to others; yet, He allows me the opportunity to decide whether I want to turn on the GPS or not. There are times when I wish that He would just force me to use his guidance. I would welcome situations where God would equip my life with a sort of spiritual breathalyzer test that would not allow me to start driving if I can’t pass a standard for spiritually safe movement. He won’t do that, for He wants me to grow in trust; therefore, I will be better equipped to deal with life in the moment and to show Christ to those I am involved with by the way that I do it.

 

It is this trust in God, linked to Him through His Spirit, with the connection created by Christ, which makes us alive. For, although we draw breath and blood courses through our veins, without this relationship we are living a dead life in a dying world. We are made alive by entering into the relationship with God. Thus, as we allow the Spirit access to our daily living, as we let our old thinking die, our spirits will become more alive with the new life that is found only in Christ. As Paul continues in Romans 8:11, “But if the spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who indwells you.”

 

Trust in the Lord forever,

For in God the Lord, we have an everlasting Rock.

Isaiah 26: 4

 

There is so much in life that can rock our worlds, and I don’t mean in a good way, either. Just go to your favorite news source and read the top ten leading stories and see how much pain and suffering is afoot in our world on a regular basis. Escape isn’t found in the Sports or Entertainment pages either. Scandal, death, and wasted lives are commonplace themes in those “soft news” venues, too. What is even harder is the fact that so much of the sort of distress that is facing people across the globe is also staring each of us in the face at home.

 

While the stories about lives turned upside down and shaken from their foundations by acts of nature and actions of man swirl around us in a seemingly never ending river of chaos that leads to fear and discouragement, there is another news story that needs to be read. It needs to receive continual, constant, and total focus. God has written His story of relationship, love, and redemption across the history of the world. He sets it before our eyes and He scribes it onto our hearts if we are willing to simply open ourselves to His voice.

 

As we shift our thought from the evil and the darkness around us and onto the light of Christ’s grace, the Spirit of God replaces confusion with clarity. He provides us with a sense of security that is based upon the actual fact of its existence. The Lord takes our swirling thoughts and emotions and calms the storm so that we can make reasoned and rational decisions while standing in the middle of the downpour. As we trust in God as the only valid source of truth and as the one who shows us the way to live with integrity, peace, joy, and love, we are standing on the unshakable foundation of all of Creation.

 

I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you a covenant for the people; a light for the nations, to open eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

Isaiah 42: 6, 7

 

There are so many times when the thing that we need can be one of the most fundamental and basic components of our universe; yet, despite its seeming abundance, true light can be awfully elusive. I know that I can be standing out in the open on the clearest day of the year with the rays of the sun beating down on me and still have a heart that is shaking from the effects of the bitter cold of helplessness and hopelessness that life has poured on it. This condition is real; yet, it is not necessary. God will bring the light of His truth and love into the center of my being, and His light is of such a great intensity that it will melt away even the hardest frost of these times of living in the winter of despair.

 

The Lord’s light comes into my life in many ways, too. He has given it to me through my acceptance of Christ and the resulting infusion of the Spirit of God into me. He has given me the ability to understand the deep truths of His Word, for God literally speaks to His own through the Spirit’s illumination of the printed text. The Lord also brings people into my life that care about and for my needs and who are confident and honest enough to do what ever is required to bring me back to the center of God’s will. God wants all of us to be the recipients of His light so that we can live in the freedom of His grace. Also He wants us to be light bearers so that we can bring the truth of His love to anyone who is bound in the chains of captivity that evil tries to keep locked around all people’s hearts and minds.

 

As we live in the freeing warmth of God’s light, we are called by Him to seek those who have been made ill by living in the cold. Then we are directed and empowered to administer the healing medicine of the Lord’s loving touch to them. We are also called to seek out the people and the places where oppression rules and bring the lock smashing blows of God’s hammer of truth to bear against that bondage. In order to fulfill the mission that God has called us to, we need to keep seeking the light of the Christ’s truth, stay close to others who are doing the same, and allow God’s Word the center place in our own reality. The coldness of despair is brought on by Satan; the warmth of God’s light sets us free.

 

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Psalm 16: 7

 

God blesses my life continually. He does this in so many delightful and valuable ways that I can not start to list or to count them all. So, how can I even consider blessing the Lord? I doubt that any of my words or actions could possibly be significant enough to have an impact on God. Yet, He tells us that everything we do and even all of our thoughts are known to Him. The Lord has designed the world that we live in so that the way that we live impacts the quality of the life of those around us, too. God cares very deeply about the the way that we conduct ourselves in this world, and He desires for each of us to be drawn to Him in a way that causes us to be motivated to make our lives into living praise of Him.

 

The Spirit of God speaks continually to my heart and to my mind. He speaks words of encouragement, insight, direction, and hope. God’s voice leads my mind to think about His will, to act out of Christ’s love, and to grow daily in my understanding of the Lord’s plan for restoration of this world. The Lord is never distant or silent. He is always with me, and His wisdom never fails to apply to both my current situation and to the ones that I am going to face in the future.

 

In the amazingly relational way that God interacts with people, He tells us that He is blessed by our responses to Him. When we respond to the Lord by loving others, by extending grace, and by working to restore the broken hearts of this world, God is overjoyed. He expresses the sort of delight that a loving parent does when a child does well in school or in sports. So, the question remains, how can I bless the Lord? The answer remains the same as it has been throughout history, as my life is lived in a manner that blesses others, God, Himself, is delighted.