Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.

Ephesians 1: 3

 

It is amazing, totally remarkable, and almost beyond my understanding that God, the Creator and the Ruler of the entire universe, would be so interested in me that He would grant to me a gift such as this. As magical and special as many of the gifts that I have received during my life have been, none of them starts to compare with the gift of relationship with Him that the Lord has handed to me. Yet, as extraordinary as that is, there is much more, for the Spirit of God opens the eyes of my heart to a new dimension of life that is also mine through my acceptance of Christ.

 

God has changed me from being spiritually dead to being fully engaged with the totality of His realm. I do not understand all that is of God or see everything that God sees, for His knowledge and understanding go far beyond my capacity and the Lord doesn’t need to or choose to reveal everything that is happening in the dimension of spirit to me. Still, in Christ, heaven has come to live in me, and my perspective on my world can now be a heavenly one. God grants to me the gift of His insight, wisdom, understanding, compassion, mercy, and love; and He tells me to bless Him by living in a different manner than people who don’t know Him.

 

You see, it strikes me that God wants me and all of His own people to live each day like we are, in fact, living in a heavenly place. God gives us a picture of what that looks like in the way that Jesus lived His life on earth, and Christ says that He wants us to follow Him. We need to take the view and the vision of life that we have gained due to our spiritual awareness and live in a manner that clearly demonstrates that we are different. The difference that God wants me to bring into this world is not one that is expressed in a superior air of separation; rather, the Lord wants the people that I touch to know that they have been touched by heaven.

 

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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.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Luke 4: 18, 19

 

Jesus is quoting the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61: 1,2) during this time of teaching in His own hometown of Nazareth, and the Lord is stating a primary purpose for His time on earth. Everyone is poor; all are held captive; blindness is rampant; and the oppressed and their oppressors all need the sort of status and position of strength that can only come from God, Himself. Jesus wanted His entire world to hear and to understand that their freedom, their year of Jubilee, was at hand. Yet, most of them didn’t listen and embrace their freedom.

 

The voice of Christ continues to speak this same message of future hope and of present joy through deliverance, and we are faced with the same decisions that people in Isaiah’s and in Jesus’ times had to consider. We can continue to hold onto the things in our lives that seem to give us comfort and power but actually rob us blind; therefore, we can remain in our impoverished and sightless condition, or we can trust Christ to the depths of our hearts and allow that everything that we surrender to Him will be replaced by something much greater. The hardest aspect of this personally is that I don’t get to define or to choose exactly how and what God will do in my life. He simply wants me to accept His reality and to trust Him with it all. Thus, the Lord tells me to open my hands, let go, and be healed.

 

This all sounds so simple; yet, it is among the hardest things that most of us can entertain. It involves deep and very personal exposure of self to God, and we are required to start to walk the tightrope of life without our well-established safety net of comfort and habit. Yet, soaring across the heights in the arms of God is exhilarating, and walking out of the bondage that sin has wound around the heart, even if today’s journey is for only a step or two, is the sort of freedom that provides us with an insatiable taste for more of the same. So, let us enter into the peace and the rest for the spirit that Christ describes and celebrate the coming of the Year of the Lord.

 

Behold, God is my salvation;

I will trust, and I will not be afraid;

for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,

and he has become my salvation.

Isaiah 12: 2

 

It seems that everyone needs something to hold onto as we go through the days of our lives. There is some form of belief that keeps us more or less centered within the structure of our values and our ethical and moral boundaries. We may hold to a fully fleshed out set of rules, a religious system, confident self-determination, or some other construct; however, virtually no one goes very far in our adult journey with nothing of this sort to place our hands around to grasp onto and to trust to focus the outcome of the important decisions that we will need to make almost every day. I have tried several of these methods and means of gaining my bearings for this essential aspect of living, and there has been only one that actually works. The Lord has consistently and faithfully provided truth, wisdom, guidance, and protection to me regardless of where I have gone or what I have undertaken.

 

So, for me, Isaiah’s statement is truly on-target. He starts out with the single most important aspect of entering into a relationship with God. God is the only source of salvation that exists in the universe, and all of us need to be saved. We are born lost, defeated by our sinfulness, and bound for a life of separation from God and from the love, truth, grace, and justice that are formed up out of His character and nature alone. Not only does God save us and bring us into His presence in a relationship that enfolds all of life under His outpouring of engagement, but the Lord is absolutely trustworthy to provide answers to all questions, to care about and for us in all circumstances, and to never abandon or separate Himself from us. The Lord has been consistently true to His word to never leave my side and to always enter into my life in love, grace, and truth; so, it is natural to trust Him in all matters and with all aspects of my days.

 

Out of this trust comes the ability to be strong and to carry on regardless of what life may throw my way. The strength that I am speaking of is not some sort of brave front or unflinching determination to show no pain on the outside. Instead, it is a form of strength that knows that the outcome of this life is secured in Christ and that holds onto the Lord’s promise to provide His people with all that we need to remain true and faithful to Him in and through all that comes our way. Christ’s strength has taken the place of my weakness, and He makes me capable of singing songs of praise to my Lord during each and every day of my life. Thus, over and over again the Lord sustains me when I am failing in my resolve. He lifts me up when I have fallen down both in body and in spirit, and Christ is the solid rock upon which I can trust to set my feet when the troubling and the terrifying aspects of this world are hurling themselves my way.

 

 

Thus sys the LORD:

“Stand by the roads, and look,

and ask for the ancient paths,

where the good way is, and walk in it,

and find rest for your souls.

But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”

Jeremiah 6: 16

 

When we consider these words from the Lord, it is easy to see our day and age as depicted in them. Yet, Jeremiah wrote them down about 2,600 years ago, and people have been making the same comparison ever since then. So, it may not just be our times that are out of synch with God’s will and desire for the way that we live, but, instead, it is the fallen nature of people’s hearts and minds that is the problem. We should not take any comfort in the fact that our generation is not uniquely guilty of deviating from God’s righteous path, either; rather, we should take our Lord’s words of warning to heart and also seek out His promise of rest for our souls and the deeply felt peace that accompanies that rest.

 

Now God’s path of travel through life does not always seem to be so peaceful or rest filled. In fact, it takes us in a direction that heads straight into conflict with many of the values that our world holds as important. It also compels its sojourners to be on guard at all times as enemies of righteousness stand ready to assault God’s faithful people in order to attempt disruption of our faith and with ill intent regarding the stability of our fellowship of belief. There are also many times when the road signs and even the path itself are obscured or even completely covered over by ideas, concepts, and revised and newly enlightened ways of understanding God’s Word; yet, all of this new interpretation tends to be misguided at best and formed up out of dark desires at its worst. The true and ancient roads are still with us, and their footing is secure and solid when we search for it and step out in faith for our daily journey.

 

The discernment that we need in order to walk confidently along these foundational ways is found in the presence of Christ with us in that pursuit of truth, grace, and righteous love. We come to know these essential elements of life for the traveler along the Lord’s road by knowing our Savior and Lord well. God’s Word, read in its entirety and believed with a faith that holds its contents and their authorship as both sacred and mystical provides direction, counsel, and comfort for our days of travel. The Holy Spirit brings us the companionship of Christ for each step of the way, and He also provides insight and understanding into the direct and tangible application of all that is contained within that living word and also into God’s will as it pertains to the place and the times of today’s path. In choosing to follow Christ and stride out along His path of redemptive truth, we are moving away from the mainstream flow of our world, but in so doing, we are settling into God’s will in a manner that brings our souls to a peaceful place that brings both true rest for the night and strength for the new day to come.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

 

God’s concept of safety is rather strange or even strangely odd. As a parent, I have often taken action when my children seemed to be heading toward something dangerous. We parents try to anticipate our kids actions and pull their hands back from the hot or the sharp objects, and we hold those same hands when we head out of buildings into the areas where cars or other dangers are present. We warn them about the perils of life and give them instruction about safe navigation through those places and situations as we hope and pray for that safe return at the end of the journey. There is no question in my mind that God functions and operates as a parent to us all; yet, His concept and approach to this activity is different from mine in some very important ways.

 

The Lord is far more concerned with the security of the soul of His children than He is with our flesh remaining intact, unbruised, and our bodies staying unshaken. He cares most deeply about the sorts of harm that our minds takes in and the ways that our hearts are bruised by exposure to the sinful distractions of this world. I am not trying to say that God doesn’t enter into protecting our bodies or that He is not concerned about taking us through our days whole and safely complete, but I do believe that this outcome is not first in His order of priorities. I am also not suggesting that the spiritual health of our children is not of paramount importance to most parents, but we still tend to engage more of the time in their physical protection and in our training of them in how to stay whole and physically safe.

 

Thus, David sings out his praise to the Lord for the way that He alone brings about the true safety that our souls, hearts, and bodies need in order to fully rest. The Lord grants to us a dwelling place within the security of His presence so that we can lie down and get the sleep that we so desperately need. This is a form of slumber that can take place even when we are surrounded by the forces that God’s enemies have called up against Him and us. The rest that God grants to us is a gift that flows out of His presence as we turn toward His face in thanksgiving and prayerful meditation on His Word and in submission to the words of life that He speaks into our racing hearts and that He pours over our aching muscles. We can place our trust in the Lord as He tucks us into the security of His loving care and sings His words of truth to sooth our hearts and calm our minds into a state of peaceful slumber.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell in you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Colossians 3: 16

 

God dislikes separation and distance more than almost anything; He seeks after everyone and He keeps calling to us all even long after we have covered our ears with our hands, locked our hearts away in a steel vault, and given our allegiance to others. So, when we have listened to the call of eternal love and acceptance and come to God, is it any surprise that the Lord would continue to seek an ever more intimate and involved relationship with us?

 

Therefore, God gave us His word, and He provides His Spirit to guide us into an increasingly deep and comprehensive understanding of it. Still, it is up to each of us to decide to open ourselves up to the deep truths of the Lord, for I have found that the more I seek wisdom, truth, and understanding, the more of them I will gain, and when I apply the understanding that God has given me to the way that I live, His peace and joy fill my soul with a song that can not be suppressed.

 

We are not called to live each day as if we were actors in a musical play where all of our lines are delivered in song; yet, God wants us to be so closely connected to His love, grace, and mercy that our hearts are continually filled with thankfulness and our words and actions are those of someone whose view of life is framed from an eternal perspective. So, as the Spirit of Christ fills the heart with the peace and joy of His Word and that comes out of His presence, it is not at all surprising to consider that we would express it all by way of singing out in praise to our Lord and Savior.