He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1: 20, 21

If you or I think that God is caught off-guard or unawares by the struggles that we have in life, then we have missed comprehending the heart of the Father. Should we ever face the issues that lie before us and see no opportunity for redemption in them, we lack a fuller appreciation of God’s commitment to His people. When we feel as if the challenges that those we care about most deeply are insurmountable, whether they are caused by willful disobedience or by situations and actions outside of their control, we need to open our eyes and truly see Christ’s love, grace, and power in their fullness. This world is a harsh and a difficult place to live. There are many traps and pitfalls that we can stumble into, and the landscape is littered with the debris that is the product of broken lives and failed dreams. Yet, God knew all of this before He did anything.

The Father sent His Son as our redeemer. Christ came into the world as a baby, and He left it as a fully formed man, whose life portrayed the intent, will, and power that God continues to pour out into the lives of people that accept His gifts. Christ now leads us into seeking after what has been promised to us from those times before the creation of the world. That is, we are to recognize that all goodness and mercy in our world come from God, and these unworldly qualities are granted to us in full measure through our faith in Christ and by the working of His Spirit in us and in our world. When we face trials, we are to call upon Christ in that faith and expectantly wait upon His understanding and wisdom to provide clarity and direction for any actions that we are to take. These times of prayer and contemplation can seem long when all that we desire is resolution or relief; yet, they serve the purpose of focusing our hearts and minds upon the Lord and taking them out of the naturally self-oriented place where people tend to go in challenging times.

Turning our deepest fears, concerns, and apprehensions over to God can be hard to do. People are generally formed up and function in a manner that is self-reliant and that utilizes our own resources to provide answers to all of the challenges that we face. There is nothing wrong with any of this; however, if we enter into the storms of life with our own skill and capacity as the complete and full set of resources that we have at our disposal, we are missing out on the greatest of all sources for gaining wisdom that overcomes all adversity and for the endurance that we will need to continue a hard journey to its conclusion. Christ can grant us the vision to see beyond the moment and into the glory of God’s redemption and restoration of all that is holy, good, and just in this world. As we place out faith and trust in Christ, He grants us a form of hope that is greater than all adversity, and He fills our weary hearts with a form of peace that id based upon His unfailing and eternal love. 

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.”

John 12: 27

 

Jesus was revealing a very human aspect of Himself, for as He was explaining the fact that the time for His death was near, Jesus also expresses the deep concern and dread that the events that were coming were causing in His heart. Even Jesus felt the sort of anxiety that brings about sweaty palms and a pounding heart. Even Christ needed to talk about the way that He felt and to express His concerns to the Father and to the people who were close to Him.

 

The same things are true for all of us. Yet there are many times when it seems that it is best to put on a brave front and to continue as if there is nothing to be concerned about. We face into situations that are causing our stomachsto churn and our minds to race in anticipation of the worst with a smile on the face and with all of our honest feelings stuffed deep inside a box that is labeled “Confident and Optimistic.” But Jesus shows us a different model.

 

While not doubting the Father’s plan or His purpose in it, Jesus still was able and willing to open up to those who were close to Him, and He was willing to let them know that the course that He was on was not easy and that it was about to become even harder. He was vulnerable and that vulnerability gave others an opportunity to join Him in the real journey of the heart and the mind. Christ wants us to trust Him and to trust the human spiritual family that He has given to us with the same sort of honest expression of our real state of being. Just as the Father responded to Jesus’ expression of need with reassurance, Christ does respond to our openness with His truth, love, and strength.

 

Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Matthew 6: 9

 

Everyone has a father. Some are extraordinary, others have been inconsistent, there are the ones who just are, and sadly, for many, their fathers have been absent or it would have been better if they were. God knows all of this, and He is aware of the fact that the images hat people attach to the idea of father are wildly variable. Yet, God made each of us with a need and a desire for relationship with a father. When it is missing there is a hole in our hearts and in our souls that seems to seek after its own repair and resolution. We fill in the missing places that even the most perfect of human fathers leave with drives, actions, strivings, and ambitions. Many of them are valuable and healthy, but that is not always true, either.

 

In these few opening words to a prayer, Jesus is framing an attitude toward God that is born out of the way that God sees and values each of us. God’s engagement with people is such that He views each of us as His own child, as the product of His creative touch. We are delightful to His eye and each person is blessed with our own singular expression of the divine image in flesh and blood form. This is how God, the Father, sees us despite the disasters of our lives, the messes that we create, and the chaos that we perpetrate upon this earth. The Lord’s heart sings with a love song for us that is the heavenly lullaby of a father who seeks to be close to and to travel life with His child.

 

Yet, God is holy. He is separate from all of this world’s destruction and loss, and that name, Father, carries with it that holiness. Therefore, there would seem to be a disconnect between God’s desire to be an intimately involved father to us and His separation from our sinfulness. To that end, God does not demand that we become perfect in order for us to ascend to His holy presence. Rather, the Father gave us the gift of Jesus and the presence of His Spirit with us in this world and within us in this life so that He could come to the place where we are, and, through the efforts of Christ alone, we are elevated out of our existence as orphans in this world and into the loving care of our true and perfect Father.

For the day of the Lord is near upon all the nations. As you have done, it shall be done to you; your deeds shall return on your own head.

Obadiah 15

 

The words of this ancient prophet have a very current ring to them. Although he spoke them almost 2,600 years ago, it sounds like he is shouting out a warning that needs to be given to our ears today. Perhaps very little has really changed in all of this time. Maybe we have not progressed as far as we would like to think? In fact, it could be true that our culture and our way of living in it have, in fact, regressed from even those dark days when God’s people were under the oppressive rule of the Babylonians. Whatever conclusion we might draw about the state of things in our times in contrast to those of people throughout history, the one fact that stands out clearly is that we people and our national governance live unrighteously far more readily and willingly than we listen to and obey God.

 

God has spoken, and we need to hear. The Lord sets out His desired responses to His Word, and we are required to follow. Each person is held accountable by God for the way that we respond to Him. God, the Father, has given us His Son, Jesus, as our only true and certain way into relationship with Him. Christ alone is our hope and our salvation. He brings renewal and restoration. This is true for each person individually, and it is also true for our nations and for all of Creation. The only real hope that any nation can have is found in following God and adhering to His righteous path. Yet, history tells us that nations seldom do this well. Governments are nothing more than temporary stewards of things that actually belong to God. Sadly, people in power rarely seek out Christ and His leading as their sole source of wisdom and insight when they seek to govern. Therefore, they will always make decisions that are formed and framed by the sort of human wisdom that leads to compromise and that misleads their people.

 

When our nations, states, and communities take action and pass laws that are contrary to God’s Word, people who know God can not just silently accept that outcome. This is true even when our culture says that our way of viewing what is righteous is too harsh and unloving or when the actions in question are framed in patriotic or nationalistic terms yet they stand in opposition to Christ and His purposes. This is the case when our government seeks to redefine sacred relationships such as marriage in terms that are not biblically accurate and when it devalues life by making the killing of the unborn a matter of personal choice and convenience. This is also true when we marginalize people by refusing to utilize our resources to benefit and build-up those who are in true need. We are guilty before God when we claim that we are seeking to end oppression yet we become violent oppressors ourselves.

 

This listing is incomplete, and the issues at hand are complex. Yet, God speaks very clearly about His response to our sinfulness. His time of judgment and final cleansing is very near. Christ will return, and He will purify and restore this world. God will reclaim all that has been broken and lost. However, our Lord does not want His people to wait for that to happen. He calls us to be active in bringing the truth, light, and love of His Kingdom to our world today. We may not change the outcomes of the ways that our leaders think and act; yet, Christ will be on view when we speak out in biblical truth. Our voices may not seem very loud in contrast to the roar of the crowd, but Christ will use our humble faith and trust for His purposes and for the glory of the Father. Truly, the day of the Lord is near, let Christ’s blessing be what is returned to each of our heads on that day.

And behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3: 17

 

God spoke. He spoke words of profound truth into the narrative of the life of Jesus. Here we see a man. He was a living, breathing, grieving and laughing, suffering and dying man. Yet, He is not like any of the rest of us, for Jesus was also the Son of God. He was unique in all of the history of humanity in that in and of himself, Jesus was worthy of God’s description of being thoroughly pleasing. He did not contain the contagion of sin that plagues all of the rest of us. Although Jesus was born as we are, grew into adulthood, and walked the streets and the paths of this world in a manner like all of us; He was utterly different in that His relationship with the Father was perfect and complete. Nothing separated them one from the other.

 

For this reason He was also the only possible answer to that separation for the rest of us. Jesus would be that perfect, spotless sacrifice that God required in order to cleanse the residents of this fallen world from our sin and to mediate the separation from God that it causes. Sacrifice is essential for us in that it is the means by which we internalize the words of repentance that our minds create so that our hearts are open to the change that Christ seeks to work in and on them. Jesus offered Himself as the ultimate, the final sacrifice that was essential for my sins and yours to be forgiven by God. However, we still need to yield ourselves to the cross of Christ in order to enter fully into the life that He is calling us to live.

 

It is only when we recognize the enormity of what it meant for Jesus to allow Himself to be taken to the torture of the cross with the totality of surrender to death that this act entailed that we can begin to grasp the nature of what it means to give ourselves to Christ. This giving requires us to yield control of our lives to the will and the rule of Christ. In order for me to do this I must be willing to set aside comfort, fear, reluctance, and self-rule as I place my life on that cross with my Lord and enter into the death of all that I have been. The realization of this moment of surrender is that time of coming into the revealed glory of Christ and the beginning of being made fully alive in the hope of Christ’s resurrection.

The LORD your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you by his love;

he will exalt over you with loud singing.

Zephaniah 3: 17

 

After the certainty of salvation that comes from knowing Jesus Christ, this is the most comforting thought that I can hold onto as I travel through life. Although this comment was directed to the nation of Israel, it applies equally well to Christ’s church today, and the Lord is also speaking to each of us who follow Christ. The Lord, my God, is here now and always. He has chosen to reside in the world where I live and to dwell with me, and it is Christ’s presence that changes everything. He takes a broken and dying world and makes it a place where His people can find joy and peace and be in constant relationship with our loving Father.

 

It is in and through this presence that God’s great love for people is clearly and continually expressed. He is with us, and He is engaged with our lives in all aspects and areas of them. The Lord is that loving parent who delights in even the simplest of actions that His child undertakes. So, when it comes to actions that reflect the character and the nature of Christ, God is especially delighted in us. For, although He is present in our world, that presence is expressed and magnified by the lives that we live out as we engage with Christ and follow His will, as we live as citizens of the Kingdom of God come to earth.

 

So, for me, God’s joy and celebration of the life that I live leads me to desire to worship Him; thus, the songs that my heart sings become the words that my mouth expresses. The blessings that God is pouring out on me are given to others in the world around me. I desire to live with the joy and the peace that Christ has granted me evident so that the world will see and seek after their source. As God’s great joy over souls saved and relationships established pours out of His people and into our world, we become a public testimony to the King who saves.

Of the Son, God, the Father, says,

“Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.”

Hebrews 1: 8 (quoting Psalm 45: 6)

 

We people make decisions about allegiances and memberships all of the time. We join a group that looks like it has common goals and values to us, or we pay the fee and gain admittance into a society that promises to provide us with certain things that we desire to have. Some of these affiliations and relationships are long lasting and some have very short lives; yet, most of us put a significant amount of energy into the process of selecting them and into maintaining them. Still, all of these human connections will suffer from imperfection and instances of failure, and we will wind up abandoning many of them.

 

Here God is pointing the way to entering into the one and the only truly permanent relationship that exists in the universe. God is telling us that Jesus is the ruler of Creation, that His reign has always existed, and that it will never stop. If I want to find consistency, truth, and real durability in this life; then I need to start with the foundation from which all of these things are built. Jesus brings the understanding and the wisdom of eternity to my weak and wandering heart and mind, and He also has the authority, the power, and the desire to actually cause my world to change.

 

Before I sign one more membership application, pledge my loyalty to any other group, or commit to a new affiliation; it would be good to be certain that everything that I am doing fits into Christ’s plan for working through me to redeem this world. He rules the world with righteousness, and He wants all of His people to bring that righteousness with us into every minute of our days. To follow Jesus is to follow the only ruler who will absolutely still be reigning over all at the end of the day. To follow Jesus is to join Eternity’s select group.