We all want to know where the safe harbor is. We all want to batten down the hatches and secure the ship until we arrive at port. We all want a compass that will not play false to us...a star that will not lie. And yet....
We live in a hostile world. We live in a world of uncertainty, of uncontrollable weather in the environment, in relationships...even within us. The things that we do, we don't want to do and the things we desire to do...somehow...we don't. Our quest for perfection, for a life without surprises or want or needs unmet, our longing for a controlled environment in which to store our soul or our treasures is a relic of Eden. It speaks to the place the human soul lived in once. It speaks to that distant Paradise somewhere out before us, that beckons.
So what are we to do in transit? What are we to do on this trip?
First. Accept the reality of this world. It is fallen. There will be surprises. There will be messes. There will be storms.
Second. Plant your faith in God, the one Great Constant - the North Star of the universe. Have faith in Him, not in the outcome.
Though there are times when God obliterates the realities of cancer or difficult relationships or financial difficulties, faith is not designed to remove the realities of a fallen world, but to equip us to deal with them. Faith connects us with the only one who has overcome this world. It gives us a compass that will not play false with us; it reveals to us a star that will not lie and it gives us a safe Harbor. And in the midst of the unpredictables of this world, our Star and our Compass will sustain and guide and keep us. He will not leave or forsake us...He is with us always, even unto the end of the world. These are the words of Christ, the "Eastern Star", among the last words, actually, that He spoke to His followers. "In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." He spoke to the realities of this place, and as He accepted that reality and did not ignore or avoid it...He overcame it. The realities grieved Him and sometimes angered Him, but He never sugar-coated for His disciples the daunting nature of their trek here and of the experiences they would encounter. And yet....
He promised them peace.....and joy. Such jewels of the kingdom can only be strung in a dark place by faith. They can only be worn as we live and abide in Him. By faith He indwells us. As we abide in Him by remaining in His word and living by its precepts, we find our safe harbor....we are hid with Christ in God. A turbulent world still swirls outside our door, but we can know His peace and joy in our hidden place.
Third. We must do what we can. We must obey. We must follow. We must move where we can. Then God does what we cannot.
Fourth. Ask for the Wisdom to know where your efforts need to cease and God needs to move. Remember.....Outcome is never in your hands! Outcome always is in God's territory. We are to sow good seeds....seeds of wisdom or understanding and insight. We are to sow those seeds....not plant them! We are not to try to dig a hole in the soil of another's soul and poke that seed in with broomstick so it will grow. We sow....we cast our understanding and wisdom out, we may even come back a time or two to clarify, but we cannot control what another does with the seed. That is the Holy Spirit's role....He is in charge of the growth and the harvest.
Fifth. Let go. Rest in that wisdom and in your faith that God really can do what you cannot do, and that the Holy Spirit has taken over to do what He can.
May God grant you the strength to do what you can and the wisdom to know what is not yours to do.
- II -
The Message of the Moment
It was what He did not hear that spoke to Him of the meaning of the moment and of a woman's heart. The loud ping of weighty coins announced the offerings of those who passed by the repository, announced the size of their temple gifts. When the widow passed by and moved her hand soundlessly toward the receptacle as if to cast her offering there, only a listening heart could have heard the sound of two feather light coins and caught their meaning. "She has given more with her two pennies than all the others," Christ spoke of the message of the moment, "for she has given all she has." The message was of authenticity. It was the message of a sacrificial life and a loving heart. It was one of humility and ultimate value. It was the honoring of a life that no one else saw, of a heart no one else heard.
We all have need to be noticed and known and to be affirmed in that knowing. We all long for someone to hear our heart and care. It is only as we recognize our own need that we can know the need of others and understand the hidden language of their soul. Lingering in the moment attunes us to the message that it holds. Sadness in one's spirit is always shrouded in silence that cannot be heard if we hurry past. If we listen only a person's anger or curtness, we may miss the message of a disappointed or neglected heart.
As we train ourselves to be fully present in the moment and listen to the messages it holds, we may find that such a small and simple gift may become an offering of life in the repository of an empty soul. Cast what you have into the temple coffers of those about you. It may be the greatest gift of all.
We are to be blessors....this new order of man we have been commissioned into. We are to bless with our lives, with our words...our attitudes and approach to life. We are to look outward to the world about us as the arena in which we are to bless, and we are to look outward to those about us as the ones we are to bless. It may be the blessing of affirmation: a father telling his son or daughter how proud he is of who they are or what they've done. A husband or wife encouraging the other. It may be a co-worker, or the clerk at the check-out stand that receives your affirmation.
It may be forgiveness or the absence of judging another. A kind word or smile or touch. It may be a reconciling act that calms the anger of another....a soft response that settles the heart and dis-arms.
We are asked by Christ to follow Him. To walk as He walked. To see as He saw. We are asked to see the world about us as a place desperately in need of blessing. We are asked to see those about us as ones who need our blessing, not our curse. The world is conditioned by a curse. It is steeled for it. The world expects a curse. We are asked to break the curse with blessing.
Though we can find characteristics of all the churches of Asia in our American church today, the most glaring characteristic is that of Laodicea. As a culture we are laden with surplus. Prosperity has given us bulging pantries, bulging pocketbooks, bulging closets, bulging garages, bulging budgets, bulging wastelines, bulging wastebaskets and landfills, bulging comfort and liesure, bulging organizers and schedules.
The problem with this Battle of the Bulge is that the spirit always loses. We may take on the appearance of godliness, (as Paul describes to Timothy of the end times), there may be a bulge of the church, but there is an emaciation of the spirit life. That is because the riches and pleasures, as well as the concerns, of this world choke out the fruit of the spirit in us. If our schedules are filled and our dayplanners are crammed, there will be no place for stillness, no space for listening to the Lord. Our culture is not programmed for this, and if we are active participants in it, we will find no computer chip that puts us on pause...no font for the spiritual language of prayer and of the spirit.
The great need for the Christian in this Laodicean era is a simplified life that makes room for things of the spirit. But if our focus is on our world and the fineries it offers, we will find it impossible to serve God. We may make room for church, because in the Dallas area church is culturally encoded...it's culturally approved, but there will be little room for things of the spirit. If our focus is on the world and its customs of efficiency and significance, we may speak a Christian dialect, but we won't have a clue of what it looks like to serve Him. Someone told us once it was not possible to serve both God and material things. And true to the culture of Laodicea, we seem bent on trying to prove Him wrong.
As we let Him, the power the spirit of Christ had in the flesh of Jesus to subdue sin begins to work in our flesh to break sin's grip there. The resurrection life of Christ working its way out into our whole being blows out our prison bars.
In becoming sin, when Christ was crucified, so was sin and its grip in human flesh. In becoming the curse, the curse of sin was nailed to the tree as He was crucified. What that means for you and me is that sin's palor does not forever have to cripple our soul. No matter what its residue, be it pain caused by another or from our own hand, it's curse was broken at Calvary. Bitterness can be released, hurts can be healed, soulish fractures can be restored, broken hearts can be made whole and our bruised places set free, relationships mended and emotional and spiritual captivity can be delivered.
If we believe this power of the cross, then the cross is the power of God in our lives. It is the pivotal moment in human history and it becomes the pivotal reality of our being. If sin was nailed to the cross...if the curse was nailed to the cross...then it remains for us to appropriate it. It remains for faith to rise up in us and claim the keys of death and hell for our own. It was the Christ dwelling within us who snatched those keys from Satan's grip, and He carries them with Him still in the chambers of our own soul. It is our faith in that that allows our prison doors to swing open at Calvary.
"Be watchful and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die." Revelation 3: 2
We slumber spiritually as well. It is particularly easy to fall asleep at the wheel of our faith, today, and not even know it. There is so much activity that surrounds our lives, even religiously: church related events...organizing and planning and giving our energy and time to helping there. It's easy to confuse this activity and focus for spiritual wakefulness, when often it becomes the very pillow we lay our head on. So what is the light that flashes on our dashboard warning us that we are nodding off? Passion. Do we have passion for the Lord...or busy-ness? Is it passion for His word and ways...or for the activity on his behalf? Making the phone calls for the Sunday School class or organizing the social or showing up for it...or for church? It's not that these are wrong, or even diversions from the real meat of the soul. It's just that they're not the gauge of the soul. They're not the meter that registers our spiritual wakefulness.
Only our passion for the Lord Himself tells us of the sleep that clings to our soul. Those other things - though good - can masquerade as spiritual commitment while concealing a nodding heart. These activities may be the religious relics of a time once past in which a holy fire did burn in us, but they have somehow become God's surrogate now. So what speaks of a holy passion? Are we watchful for approaching enemies of God's turf in us? TV and movies that carry content abrasive to Christ? Attitudes or anger or a critical spirit that brandishes it sword when threatened? Controlling impulses that ever manage to maneuver and manipulate people and circumstances; trying to call the shots and dominate the landscape? These are some of the things that reveal the nature or our passion. Do we faithfully seek Him out in Scripture...seeking to know Him and His ways? Seeking to implement His ways in our life? Do we run to Him in prayer when we stumble and fall? Do we have a hunger for HIM? Do we have a righteous thirst? Do we seek to rouse the dying embers in our soul?
With all the riches of things and events, activity and doing that drench our culture; with all the church and religious focus of our society, it is easy to fall asleep at our spiritual wheel and not even know it.
In II Corinthians 3 we learn that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. In John 8 we learn that it is Truth that sets us free.
When the Spirit moves, He always moves in truth. If you and I would be free in the midst of our circumstances and our relationships, we must be willing for Truth to land in the midst of our preconceived notions and change our minds - and our hearts - about what is important and what isn't. The sense of our own rightness is the greatest hindrance to the flow of truth in our hearts and to the symphony our soul needs in relationships. Relationships are crippled if discordant notes litter the pages of our song.
So what song is it the Lord has scored for us? To live peacably with all men where possible. To love and pray for those who are hard for us...who resist or oppose us. To tear down walls of partition between us and others...to engage in the ministry of reconciliation where possible. These can only be done, not through the barrier of pride, but through the bridge of humility. Pride is a fragile self seeking to defend and protect itself. As we defer our protection to the One who is our Banner and Provider...as we "commit ourselves into the hands of Him who judges righteously"... we find an amazing ability to be God's instrument in this crazy place...to be a part of the answer rather than the problem. We make ourselves available to a power flow that is not of us.
It has been said that as Mary said to the angel, "Be it unto me according to your will," that it was then her womb received that which was Holy and miraculous. When Ester gave up herself with the words, "If I perish, I perish," it was then that the power of God flowed through her to deliver her and her people from death's decree. Only when we get out of the way do we see mountains moved, and the mountains in our own souls brought down.
Divine power moves as human perspective submits and human effort relents.