Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Have you ever meditated on the first few books of the Acts of the Apostles? If not, you should. It is beautiful to see the joy that fills these converts. They are filled with such joy that they give away personal possessions for the good of the community.  How many of us have experienced that type of joy?  

As I have pondered their joy, I have come up with the hypothesis that they were joyful because they knew the extent of their sinfulness, and God relived them of the guilt and stain of sin. He gave them eternal life, even when they didn’t merit it.  Of course, I am still struggling with my own sin. It is easy in modern society to understand sin because we have watered down the concept. If it is something that almost every does, then it cannot be that serious. 

Let me try to explain. When we were baptized, we stopped being an individual; we became a part of the body of Christ; a part of all people.  Thus, when we gossip, we hurt the overall body. we hurt Christ.  We hurt the person we are talking about.  I can go on and on here, with other examples, but I won’t. Plus, just because my head sees the more egregious nature of sin, that doesn’t mean that my heart has conceded these points. I honestly like society’s position on these things, but it is in conflict with my reading of the Bible.  Hence, if my hypothesis is correct, I have yet to experience this joy. 

Spend some time today thinking about your joy; your joy in Christ.  Is it as intense and overwhelming as those from the early Church? If not, what do you think you are not experiencing the joy of Christian living? What can you do today to move yourself more in line with that which God has promised? 

In Him,

dw 

On Relationships

It is amazing to watch how the world is moving away from being a polite society.  We used to treat people with respect, and now most of us (me included) spend time finding fault with everything.  Is it just that we have learned critical analysis skills more than other generations? Maybe it is because we have taken God out of politics and, to some degree, society. It could even be that our culture has become more laid back; less highly civilized. 

At the same time, we are more worried about hurting people’s feelings. Isn’t this a contradiction?  We tell people how we think they should think and speak, but we keep important information about our relationships to ourselves.  We don’t speak when someone does something wrong to avoid hurting their feelings. In the end, they come to believe behaviors are acceptable because no one corrects them. I’ll use a simple example.  I have seen people speaking in cube environments, disturbing the peace and work efficiency of others.  No one says, “hey, could you go in the other room?” The behavior perpetuates because the talkers come to believe that their behavior is ok. They do not get the social cues that make them curb their behavior.  

Loving people means ensuring that they have the information necessary to make good decisions.  Loving people means, accepting them, even their faults.  It means, treating people with respect.  It means learning proper ways of communicating improper behaviors. It means learning ways to ask people to change their behaviors, especially when it is just a personal request, like picking socks up off the floor.  It means asking yourself, is this intended as constructive feedback, or am I just being critical because it negatively affects me?  

This made me think of something my dad said recently. We were talking about parenting skills. He distinguished between parenting to improve the parent’s world, and parenting to teach the children to be more socially adjusted, polite people.  I’m sure these can sometimes be the same thing, but not always. 

Let’s spend some time today considering our relationships, and our encounters with strangers in the world. Are we treating people like they are a part of the body of Christ; a part of us?  Let’s think about where we might be overly critical of people and their behaviors.  Are we seeking to create the best environment for us, or is it really something that is offensive to everyone? Invite the Holy Spirit into your day to tap you on the shoulder when maybe you should speak up when you normally wouldn’t or to stay silent when you would normally strike out. 

In Him, 

dw 

Published September 10, 2019

God’s Instruction Manual #1

I find myself continually returning to the question – what does it mean to be a Christian? I think there is an ever deeper answer to this question.  I think there is more to this question because Jesus came to set the world on fire, yet the world is not engulfed in flames. (Lk 12:49). He came to bring us life and joy and fullness in our day to day mundane lives, but when I look at the world, there is more joy to be had.  The truth is, he came to show us the operating manual for our lives so that these fantastic things could be more fully experienced in our lives. Let us take a peek at this instruction manual. 

Instruction #1: Always remember that you were made in the image and likeness of God. 

What does it mean to be in his image and likeness? The answer to this question is multi-faceted, but this morning, the partial answer lies in the fact that God is holy.  God is pure, and majestic.  He made us to share in his God-head, but we choose sin over holiness. We choose to roll in the mud, instead of clinging to all that is pure and clean.  

Maybe this is something better viewed to an old image I’ve had in my head.  When I was growing up, there was this “sport” called mudding.  For anyone who doesn’t know this activity, it is about taking one’s vehicle out to a muddy place, and slipping and sliding through the mud.  It is exciting and scary because it is impossible to completely control the vehicle.  The mud is somewhat akin to ice.  The point to be made here is that you didn’t take just any vehicle mudding. It was usually a truck with large tires. You didn’t go mudding in a corvette.  You could, but it wasn’t made for mudding, and by taking it mudding, the car would be damaged. 

Does my example make sense or is it as clear as mud?  The point I am trying to make that our creator made us like a corvette.  We were built for holy things, and rolling in the mud of sin damages us and those around us.  Our instruction manual says that we were made to praise God, and to live holy lives.  We were made to love and to be loved.  Rolling in the mud is contrary to how we were made. Sin dampens the fire within us. Sin causes pain and reduces joy. The filth of sin keeps us from being holy.

How does your life reflect the image and likeness of God? Are you playing in the mud, or living in holy ways? The truth is, we cannot fully avoid mud while we live in this place in time; however, that is not a reason to not find ways to walk with the Holy Spirit; to grow in grace and love.  There are many reasons why we choose to play in the mud. Spend some time with your Creator today to see what prevents you from living in his image and likeness. Spend some time letting him clean under your hood, and restoring to life that which has been damaged by mudding. Once you have been washed in his love, spend some time praising the God who loves you, and wants you to spend eternity with him. 

In Him,

dw 

Priesthood

As a baptized Christian, we are all priests, prophets, and kings.  The history of this goes all the way back to Mt. Sinai at the time of Moses.  If you recall, God wanted to make the people a “kingdom of priests, a holy nation.” (Ex 19:9).  This was before the Tribe of Levi was tasked with the priestly functions.  The people agreed to be God’s people, but when he appeared on Mt. Sinai amidst thunder and lighting, the people grew afraid, and appointed Moses as the mediator between them and God.  It was not yet time for God to realize his goal of a priestly people.

However, the time of a priestly people came into existence with Jesus, who is the High Priest. As members of his body, this makes us priests, too.  

What does it mean to be a priest?  The answer is pretty clear cut in the Old Testament.  Priests were responsible for offering various sacrifices on behalf of the people.  Sacrifices were offered for many purposes, including offerings of thanksgiving, praise, and repentance.  Priests of the Old Testament had to live pure lives. They worked in the Temple, the place where their God lived. They served him by caring for the Temple, and they believed they cared for his daily needs (even though God has no material needs).  

How does this transition into the post-Temple era? My initial thoughts are along these lines.  As priests we are called to live a consecrated life; a life with one foot in the secular world, and one foot in the sacred.  Thus, we are to live as if we are the temple of God. We are to offer him sacrifices of praise (Heb 13:15) and other spiritual sacrifices. (1 Pet 2:4-5). Spiritual sacrifices can be made in many forms, including  a mental offering to God of your will in exchange for his, and humble petitions for your needs and the needs of others. 

Spend some time today reflecting on your life as a priest in Christ.  How can you make spiritual sacrifices to the Lord? Spend some time offering him praise, asking for forgiveness, and for advice on how to better live out your priestly vocation in the secular world today. Feel free to share some of your insights as we all learn to better embrace our royal, prophetic, and priestly functions.

In Him,

dw 

Treason

This morning, I pondered sin, and asked myself to define the word. Sin is disobeying God, who calls us to love him and our neighbors.  I sin every time I place my needs over the needs of others. I sin every time I choose what I want to do over what I feel God calling me to do.  

As Christians, we live in the Kingdom of God.  He is the king, and we are his people. Every time we disobey his commandments, we commit treason. In most countries, treason is a death penalty crime. Lucky for us, Jesus died on our behalf.  However, that doesn’t let us off the hook for our crimes.  Judgment Day still looms in our future.  Judgment is not just about whether one merits heaven or hell, it is also bearing full witness to the extent of our crimes.  

I want to stress here that I am not talking about whether one is saved or not. My focus is on striving to live the Christian life more fully.  This means being aware of sin, working with the Holy Spirit, and learning to better respond to Jesus’ death in gratitude and joy. The Christian life is a journey. It is a journey that must be taken with an ever growing humility. It is a journey where we sometimes find ourselves going backwards, but then leaping forwards.  

Spend some time with the Holy Spirit today asking him to help you see where you are committing treason.  Ask for his forgiveness, and thanking Jesus for all he did on your behalf. Do not be afraid or glum if you find his insights taxing. We are human. We are loved. It’s just that he longs for us to join him; to be united with him; to be consumed by his love. We cannot achieve this all in one lifetime, but we can make substantial progress.   It is our duty as a baptized Christian to keep striving, keep confessing, keep on learning to love more and more.

In Him,

dw 

Freedom in Christ

Jesus came to set us free from sin, yet we are still sinners. What does this mean for us? Do we sit complacently and wait for our final redemption, or do we work with the Holy Spirit on a daily basis to avoid occasions of sin?  

What does it mean to be free in Christ? For me, the answer lies in working with the Holy Spirit to avoid sin. It means getting up every day realizing that I am not bound by the me that screwed up yesterday. I am new, fresh, and ready to keep trying to go deeper in my walk with God; my walk towards being a more holy person.  

I know that I cannot attain perfection while I walk in this world, but I know I can be better. I know God can do great things through me if I but keep walking, trying, and surrendering. It is easy to get frustrated when it feels like I fail time and time again, but that is where hope and faith come in. It is only in trusting in God that my efforts have value; that I can get up each day and try anew.  Hope in God. I will praise him still. My savior and my God!

Spend some time today reflecting on your freedom in Christ.  Praise him for giving you this gift, and ask him to help you grow in fidelity to his will. Ask him to show you the joy that goes with surrendering, and to give you the grace to do so.

In Him,

dw

On Joy and Greater Fulfillment

Being in a relationship with Jesus is not about choosing between Heaven and Hell.  In that regard, there is no choice. We will always choose that good over that evil.  Being in a relationship with God is about realizing we are sinners, and that Jesus died for our sins.  It is about reveling in the fact that God loves you, even though he knows the good, the bad, and the ugly in your life.  It is in sitting in awe that God can love you no matter what.  

In order to have this awe, one must first understand the depths of one’s sins, or at least to be aware there is always more to our dirty little secrets than we want to admit. It is in learning to be still when we stand in the light of his truth.  While this process is scary at first, after awhile, we learn to be more humble and joyful. How can we not be joyful when we more fully realize how amazing it is that our God loves us no matter what?  

Being in a relationship with God is also about letting God heal our sinful nature.  It is about growing in holiness, and becoming more like him.  It is about being so filled with his love that it overflows from our lives into the lives of others. It is about seeing God in other people, and loving not just God within them, but also loving the most wretched of people because that person is loved by God. That person is lovable because God made him or her.  

Can you imaging what the world would look like if we could all enter into this process with vigor?  Unfortunately for some of us, it isn’t so easy.  Still, God takes us by the hand, and takes us through the process at the pace most productive to our individual needs.  

Be at peace today. The God who loves you and sent his Son to die for you, longs to lead you to a life of greater joy, fulfillment, and love.  Enter into this process with God, and learn to walk ever more fully in the light of truth, peace, and love. 

In Him,

dw

Complete and Utter Longing

Oh my people, I long to embrace you and make you whole.  Why won’t you turn to me, and let me heal you? Why won’t you turn away from the world, and more fully enter into the body of Christ, into union with me, a Triune God?  

I long to show you the way. I long to help the law written on your hearts further resonate within you.  I long to love you fully!  The things of this world are not the answer to your fulfillment in this life. It isn’t money, status, or a nice house and car that make you feel whole! No! It is in loving your neighbor, and in treating people as you want to be treated. It is in giving to others and in serving others.  The world needs you to enter in and to be healed so that the on-going mission of my Son can be felt throughout the world.  

I long to give you joy and a fuller experience of love.  I long for you to experience peace, even in this broken world.  

If you wonder what is wrong with this world, turn to the prophets. Their words still ring true.  If you want to know what is wrong, then turn to the words of my Son. There is more to this life than words on your lips.  Listen to the Beatitudes. Mediate on the footwashing story in John’s Last Supper.

I long for you to rend your heart. I want you to surrender your stony hearts so that I can replace it with a heart made of true flesh. I want to fill you with the Holy Spirit so that you can proclaim my works loudly, and convincingly.  I want you to be healed so that you can bring your neighbors to me for healing. I want a world where sheep and lion lay down together. 

I will not override your will, even though I have the power to do so. I want you to turn to me on your own free will. I created you to be free, but freedom in me is something other than what you think.  Please turn to me, and lay down your life for me. 

Repent, not out of fear of hell, but out of love for a God who loves you, and wants to use you in this world for the salvation of souls; for the total fulfillment of your purpose in this life; for the complete and utter joy that comes from living a life with and in your God. 

In Him,

dw

Avoiding Love

Our souls long to be loved, to fit in, to be a part of something greater than ourselves.  We want to be seen for who we are, but most of us (or all of us) hide who we really are from those whose love we seek.  Is it not fitting that God already knows us? He knows our failings, our longings, our hurts and pains, and still, he loves us.     

Why, then, do we find ourselves running from our deepest fulfillment? I suppose the answer is somewhat different for each of us.  One reason may be that the Devil whispers lies of unworthiness in our ears; that we do not deserve his love.  Since this lie hits our deepest, darkest fear, it strikes a cord. We respond to the lie, instead of the unconditional love that surrounds us and envelopes us.  

I think another reason that we refuse to more diligently seek the love of our lives is that we want to be our own boss. We want to make our choices. We want what we want, when we want it.  Thus, it is hard to surrender to a God who wants us to do what he wants, when he wants, even though his motives are not selfish. He just wants what is best for our long-term good. 

It is hard to go deeper with a God who’s love is so alien to us because he loves even our brokenness; he loves us even though we are imperfect. This is the type of love for which we long, but it is still so foreign to our concept of love.   This confusion may also causes us to avoid his love. 

Regardless of our reason(s) for avoiding a deeper experience of God’s love, he longs for us to spend time with him, letting him love our hurts away. Spend some time with him in silence today. Invite him into your hearts, and let him love you. When you find yourself avoiding, surrender to the experience. Surrender to the Holy Spirit who wants to love you like you have never been loved before.  

In Him,

dw 

New Covenant in Christ

What does it mean to live in the New Covenant?  It is more complex than I will say here, but here are some points to ponder.  

The Old Covenant was one where the Jews were called to follow God by obeying certain rules. One of the rules was that all men had to be circumcised. This was a sign that one was in covenant with God.  In addition, they agreed to perform certain sacrifices, and to live pure lives. In exchange, God would bless them, and even reside with them.  He resided in the Arc of the Covenant and in the Temple.  

As we see in the Old Testament, the people did their best to live out the covenant, but in the end, because of sin, they were unfaithful.  Thus, the prophets spoke of a new covenant, one in which the law would be written in our hearts.  One that would convert our stony hearts, and empower us to live a life of freedom from sin.  

Jesus came to institute this new covenant.  He fulfilled the laws of old, and gave us the tools needed to live a life in conformance with the laws that remain – love of God and neighbor.  It may sometimes seem like Jesus’ mission failed because sin still rules us to some degree, but this is not the case. 

As with the Old Covenant, God resides with us.  Once we are baptized, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his new temple, our bodies.  It is no longer one human trying to live up to the standards of the law. No. It is about us striving for compliance and, at the same time, allowing the Spirit to bolster our efforts. It is about working with the Spirit to disentangle from sin, and to live more holy, Christ-like lives.  It is about sacrifices of praise as preached in the Psalms. It is about trusting in the Spirit to lead us and guide us to more fulfilled lives in our times.  

When we walk in the Spirit, we find ourselves more fully loving God and neighbor because we are in an ever deepening union with love itself. We experience greater gratitude and joy. We are led to humility, and the joy of being weak before a God who wants to provide everything for us. 

Spend some time in prayer today, and reflect on your life in Christ. How is your walk with the Spirit? Do you allow him to guide you to a life of more joy and compliance with the law?  Say a prayer asking him to show you where you can improve in your faith walk, and be open to the answer he provides.  He promises you a life free from sin, but first, you must surrender to him so he can heal you of all things that hold you back from living a more Christ-like life. 

In Him,

dw