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signsofthetimes(A Brief Meditation on Psalm 46 and Matthew 24)

The way of grace teaches us that our hope for life begins in repentance. We prioritize out of necessity and for the sake of aligning ourselves with the truth.

We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ because man-made opinions and bubbles burst and the world tries to bustle us into becoming entangled with its causes, wars, and disputes. We believe so our ways might be exchanged for the ways of God, worldly reactions and responses exchanged for the will of God’s Kingdom.

We build up our faith because the systems upon which we lean and depend will be kicked out from under us. There will be divisions along ethnic lines and realms of thought.

We bless others in the power of the Spirit because a spirit of bitterness is taking hold of our society. There is a famine of taking in God’s Word.  We are called to move as free people, willing to let go of our own lives for the sake of those who are locked into their limiting fortresses of unbelief. We know soon all the vain things which leech and consume our attention will be consumed by God’s fiery judgment so while the light of grace still shines we are working.

We bring life in Jesus’ name to those pestered and plagued by sin, seemingly bound to turmoil, chaos, and unrest. We influence this wicked and perverse generation by the rest and stillness we have found in the presence of God. As we allow God to ascend in the midst of what we do, even the ‘fools who say there is no God’ may discover otherwise.

We breakthrough as the One whose name is above all names is exalted in our lives. Everything we know will be shaken including the ground upon which we stand. The confidence we carry is “The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” (Psalm 46: 7, 11)

I know many of us can become anxious when we see different things happening in the world and on our screens but I thought to share a lighthearted comic video with you. The Bible says, “Laughter is a good medicine,” so I hope a little medicine will help the anxiety go down.

beginwiththeendinmindLook to Romans 8: 28 – 30 and the first summation of God’s way of grace I ever observed. The end of all God’s work is for those whom God has called to be glorified.  What does that mean? The Apostle Paul describes it in verse 39 as being unable to be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Lord’s Prayer describes being glorified as being delivered from evil. (Matthew 6: 13) The path of blessing describes it as receiving peace. (Numbers 6: 26)

As far as the afterlife is concerned, it is as if we are already there. Psalm 23 describes it as dwelling in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23: 6)

Putting on the armor of God has us wielding the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6: 17) The picture of us matches the picture of Jesus in Revelation 1: 16, “out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.”  Is it any wonder now we are to be called the children of light? “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5: 8)

Begin with the end in mind. Repent. Align yourself with the Lord. Completely surrender to God’s call upon your life in Jesus Christ. Your life from this day forward is for God’s purpose.  God has a new prognosis for the outcome of our lives: “whoever believes in him (Jesus) shall not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3: 16)

All of God’s precious promises, the first of which is the Holy Spirit, begin to shape our lives. The Word of God instructs us how to be the handiwork of God, our lives shaped and orchestrated to conform to Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2: 10) Then, as we cooperatively make use of all of God’s means of grace, God calls us again.  This time there’s a ministry into which God is sending us.

We represent the Lord as witnesses and ambassadors. We do not push our own agenda or look for some earthly cause to which we associate. The hand of God is upon us. The influence of the kingdom flows into everything we do and God looks to our activity and it is well pleasing in God’s sight. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing it.

Finally, we “dwell in the shelter of the Most High”, we “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”. (Psalm 91: 1) When we love the Lord, the Lord says, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.  He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him” (Psalm 91: 14 – 15)

Another way of translating, ‘honor’ is ‘make glorious’. Yes, that is the end of God’s work in us. Let’s begin with that end in mind.

accountabilityThe farther we move up the pathway of grace the more we need to commit to being accountable. This is the third commitment  of the 3 Commitments that Lead to Extraordinary Results. Why is a commitment to accountability so vital?  “Being accountable to someone else forces us to stay in reality, and helps us see beyond our own perspectives“.

We can easily talk ourselves back from prioritizing our commitments and activities. We can also easily excuse our ways of lacking grace when holding to our commitments. The real treasure is having someone who holds us to the highest of our goals, insisting we do the one thing necessary or next to move us forward, while holding us to the highest expression of grace.

Jesus was throughout his ministry committed to the most intimate of accountable relationships. He said, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5: 30)

Every Christian should have at least a three-fold source of accountability at work within their lives.  First, we should be accountable to the Holy Scriptures since “all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17)

Secondly, every Christian is accountable to God through Jesus Christ. “It is written: ‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’ So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.” (Romans 14: 11 – 12) This is not an accountability postponed until later but an accountability that prepares us for later. Now, we approach the throne of grace in prayer and travail until a holy, God-honoring practice of life is brought forth. Now, the Spirit is “searching our hearts,” (Romans 8: 27) examining us, and leading us forward.

Finally, every Christian is accountable to other Christians. “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13: 11)

How are these three methods of accountability worked into your lifestyle?

Which do you find the easiest with which to comply? Which do you typically shy away from?

prayinghands“This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” (Hebrews 8: 10 – 11)

Touch me directly. Set your hand upon me. I am not content with lessons shared by the preacher or teacher. I am not content with holding the hand of one who holds yours. I am not content to know that a deep and abiding relationship is possible.

When will I come alive? When Your whisper is upon my ear. When will I be awakened? When Your Word touches my lips. When will I be energized? When Your breath, the breath of Your Spirit, alights upon me – when I will feel the rush and fire of Your Presence for myself.

Call to me and my heart will answer. The Day is approaching but I have no fear for it. I only fear moving from Your side. So, hold me close. Speak the Word that draws me closer still. You alone captivate my will, restore my soul, and lead me forward.

Lead me, Jesus: not just in the quiet stillness of the morning or in the fresh hope of each day but in all the routines where I may have shut you out and not even been aware of it.  Lead me most within the mundane repetitions of my work or waiting for I desire nothing to be mundane anymore. I want all things to be made new. I want all things infused with Your Presence. I want all things to be overshadowed with Your Goodness and Mercy. I want all things to be made Holy.

 

elijah“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” (James 5: 16b – 18)

Verse seventeen says, Elijah prayed earnestly. Literally translated, the verse reads very emphatically, “Elijah prayed when he prayed.” Do we?  Jesus warns his disciples against empty repetition or the vain chanting of sounds, so how can be we be earnest when we pray? How can we make sure we pray when we’re praying?

  1. Does my praying sanctify the Lord God in my heart? (1 Peter 3: 15) “This, then, is how you should pray,” Jesus said, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matthew 6: 9) There is something about our every prayer that should bring us to our knees, overwhelm us, leave us in awestruck wonder, and acknowledge that “The LORD—he is God! The LORD—he is God!” (1 Kings 18: 39)

But, at the same time prayer brings us to our knees, prayer raises us in light of God’s “eternal power and divine nature”. (Romans 1: 20)  What a mighty God we serve is not a question. It is the affirmation of every prayer.

2. Is my praying more about representing the Lord and His kingdom and will or more about requesting God’s help with establishing my kingdom or will? Representing or requesting? What do you think? Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6: 10)

3. Is my praying more a perpetuation of my stubbornness and personality or a practice through which God prescribes for me what I need each day?  Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: give us today our daily bread.” (Matthew 6: 11)

4. Do I forgive as I pray? Do I tear the walls down or fortify the obstructions and barriers that I feel in my soul?  Do I clear the path for God’s blessing in my life to flow freely through me or do I pile up materials for blocking and diverting that blessing? Jesus said, “This, then, is how you should pray: And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6: 12, 14 – 15)

5. When I pray who gets put to the test?  When Jesus teaches us to pray: “lead us not into temptation,” (Matthew 6: 13) he is acknowledging our human frailty. Jesus is not trying to cover for God or give us an excuse for unbelief.

When the disciples were first confronted with the nature and blessing of Jesus, it exposed who they were. In that time of testing, Peter fell before Jesus and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5: 8) But, Jesus didn’t go anywhere. Instead, Jesus committed himself to making Peter a fisher of men.

When we pray, “lead us not into temptation” we are praying for Jesus’ commitment to be fully realized in us and that the tests we go through will not only be revelations of our weakness but revelations of Jesus’ strength and faithfulness.

The Apostle Paul affirmed this when he said, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8: 35 – 37)

6. When I pray do I expect to see the salvation of God revealed?  Does my praying only allow God to give the answer? “This then, is how you should pray,” Jesus said, “deliver us from the evil one”. (Matthew 6: 13)

“At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command.  Answer me, LORD, answer me, so these people will know that you, LORD, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.” (1 Kings 18: 36 – 37)

remember“I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder.” (2 Peter 1: 13 RSV)

As long as I’m alive there is something for which a reminder is always appropriate. What is it? To make God’s call and His Word the basis for everything we do. Even if we already know this is true and have it firmly established, a reminder is still in good order.

What’s the purpose for the reminder? That we, with greater speed might escape and move away from the corruption that is in the world through desire and that we, with greater speed and choreography, have more and more in common with God’s nature.

These reminders can be stirring us up to the promises of God. These reminders attest to God’s glory and excellence. These reminders can point out the difference grace still needs to make for us to be conformed into the image of God’s Dear Son.

We need these reminders and I am thankful for the ones I get, even though I’m sometimes slow to appreciate them as I should.

I remember when as a young man I watched my grandfather, whose nature with whom I had way too much in common, was acting inappropriately. His caregivers would always respond so graciously, confessing for him, “He’s just not himself, right now.”  But, I was concerned, what if this behavior is closer to the truth than we want to admit?

Regardless, I developed a new prayer in those days, one which I am reminded to repeat quite often. It goes like this. “Lord, please work in me a thorough work of grace, so when I am not myself I look more like YOU than me.”

Again, I remind you, make God’s call and His Word the basis for everything you do. Let everything be laid upon that foundation. That way, everything that happens in your life will be an eternal gift and legacy.

How will you be reminded of this? Do you have a daily habit of hearing from God?  Do you have someone in your life that points out the differences between your nature and the Lord’s?  Do you have a plan to add speed and choreography to your actions that enable you to be in closer sync with Jesus?