Saturday, November 27, 2010

Character: A Spirit of Confident Expectation

The character built on Christ will exude confident expectation such as that of Christ in Hebrews 10:12,13:

But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever,
sat down on the right hand of God;
From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool.

Our lives need not be spent quaking in fear or frustration; the Spirit pours out hope that produces when we purpose to receive it!  In the Creation account, we are reminded that God completed His Work and rested on the seventh day.  We are repeatedly admonished to 'keep the Sabbath.'  We must deliberately choose to enter that same rest because we are confident in His goodness and power. 

Jesus, upon the Cross, uttered the words, "It is finished."  Jesus came to earth to die, to provide the pure, permanent sacrifice we can not make.  As God, He completed the task set before Him.  Our life-race is authored by Jesus and when we fix our eyes upon Him, we will see the story He has written for our lives ends with victory as well. 

Our confidence is not in ourselves but in His plans and purposes and power in our lives.  Our confidence is in the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice on our behalf.   The writer of Hebrews unveils a critical principle in this confidence when he tells us that faith in God's presence and goodness is our key to pleasing Him.  He is worthy of our confidence; the perfection of His love casts out every fear or frustration that attempts to infiltrate our minds.  God's Word overflows with promises and prophesies that are ours because of the work of Christ.  Victory is already assured; the trials and struggles of this life--not matter how intense--are temporary.  Be confident in Him moment by moment!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Character: A Spirit of Availability

A Christ-like character is available to the purposes of God.  Like Isaiah's responsive heart to God's question 'Whom shall we send?', the Spirit-driven character responds to the purposes of God.  Christ modeled this characteristic in leaving the glories of heaven for the dark, dingy stable of His birth.  Few recognized His glory--but that did not minimize His glory.  A spirit of availability may not always be noticed but it is always valuable! 

The prophets of old demonstrated this spirit--and its difficulty--over and over.  They submitted to the will of God and were used by Him in uncomfortable, inconvenient, incalculable ways!  Hosea married a prostitute; Jeremiah and Ezekiel delivered undesired messages to a rebellious people.  God's purposes marched through time and their lessons still speak in our hearts.  Moses opted out of a luxurious lifestyle to be identified with God.  His training ground was a back-desert sheepfold and his great life-work leading a massive nation of wandering children.  Often maligned, seldom appreciated but vitally needed are those who heed the call to be available...those who refuse to accept the impossibility of anything God commands are greatly used by Him!

Our character, rooted and growing in Christ-likeness will demonstrate that spirit of availability.  Our lives are to be offered to God as living sacrifices.  He died for us that we might live for Him (not that we might live for ourselves or those we love!).  The Christian who wishes to make an eternal impact must be available for placement anywhere on this gameboard of earthly life.  A spirit of availability requires tremendous trust in the goodness and power of God.  We all know there are many ugly places in this world--war-torn battlefields, sterile hospitals, riverbank shelters the homeless call home, sin-infested workplaces, lonely nursing homes--places we would prefer never to call 'home.'  Yet a Christ-like spirit of availability has courageous confidence that any placement is a divine assignment.  Grow closer to Him, trust Him and see how He will use you for eternal good!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Character: A Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation

Another gift to the Christian's character is introduced in Ephesians 1:17 as a prayer request by Paul for the saints at Ephesus:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father
most glorious, would give you a spirit of wisdom and
revelation through knowing Christ fully. (Ephesians 1:17)

Character developed upon personal knowledge of Christ will be infused with a spirit of wisdom and revelation.  Christ demonstrated this spirit in all of His human interactions.  He saw, listened and comprehended from His Father's viewpoint.  Jesus looked beyond the circumstances presented by those who came to Him and focused on their spiritual needs.  He was firmly identified with His Father's interests in individuals--and a character built on Him will evidence that same association.

We are called to be Ambassadors for Christ.  Our natural reactions to those we encounter--whether sweet compassion or abrasive frustration--should never be the source which motivates us to action.  We are not to be amateur Providences and change people's lives according to our plans. God's ways are not our own; He has measured the weight He puts upon every person.  What may seem excessive and unfair from the human perspective may be just the weight needed to save their eternal soul.  Alternatively what may appear to be tremendous blessing in a person's life may be a curse blinding them to their need for Jesus.   As Christ's Ambassador we need to share the reason for the hope with which we live and allow Him to guide in every interaction!

We need His Spirit to give us deep understanding of situations and the Truths of God which will speak to hearts.  We are given discernment to intercede for others--never to judge them.  The wisdom of God is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17).  As we listen to the hearts of others through the Spirit, He will give us words that encourage others and reveal His beauty.  He may impress upon our hearts the need to provide direct help or He may simply burden us to pray and love.  As we heed His guidance, we will learn more about Him ourselves and grow ever closer to His likeness!  Might we each increasingly embrace the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation He offers so freely!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Character: A Pure Heart

Mid-way through the Beatitudes, Jesus introduces the blessing of a pure heart: seeing God! Seeing God. Why would that bless? How would our days be different if we were able to see God? Is the cost of the condition worth it? A pure heart?! Is it even possible to refuse every idol and seek God without taking detours?

Let’s consider this aspect of Christian character. I believe we will be excited about its potential and delighted with the return on our ‘sacrifices’!

Certainly a pure heart does not come easily. We are born with a sin-stained heart and simply living life generates significant sin pollution. Like blue sky to a city-dweller, seeing God’s glorious beauty seems like a child’s myth to we earth-bound people. This is not a 21st century phenomenon either; Paul discussed this tendency in Chapter One of Romans and he relates the fearful consequences of such an exchange.

God has revealed Himself in a number of ways; it is our choice to embrace His glory or not. The consequences will not be our choice, though; they are the natural results of God’s righteous character. It is God’s desire for us to see and rejoice in who He is. In fact, in Isaiah we are told that “His glory” is our purpose. Later in Romans (5:2), Paul encourages believers that the certain hope of God’s glory is cause for rejoicing. A character built on Christ will embrace the eradication of idols that block the view of God’s glory…and that character will be blessed and a blessing!

We creatures of earth have heart hungers which drive us throughout our lives. Even the best things of this world: meaningful work, secure homes or caring families will leave us hungering for more. We are created for the glory of the King of King and Lord of Lords. Nothing else will satisfy. Setting aside any idols we are tempted to serve, though, and seeking Him with all we are, is all that He is asking. Our glorious King knows we are made of only dust; He is not asking more than we can give. He is asking only what we can do that He can transform us into being and doing ever more!