(September devotions continued)
manifestation or destination of hope is love. We hope that love really is… that I am loved, can love, and the reality of love is what is most real and most worthy.
I need to believe that I am loved and abide in the hope that nothing can change that – nothing can separate me for the love of God in Christ Jesus. I hope for the gift of God which allows each day, each moment to ultimately be a gift. This doesn’t mean that each day or moment will be pleasant on that day or in that moment, but rather that I hope that God will use it to teach me, use me, and to recognize that the God of hope is not limited by days or moments. This is power that does not fade and wells up to eternal life.
Thank God for hope. Amen
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them. For such people do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded. Romans 16:17-18
We are not only to look to the Lord who inspires and directs. We are also to be vigilant and appropriately wary of those who cause dissension and offense in opposition to the teaching of Jesus. Dissention and offense are not wrong in and of themselves – it is the direction to which such opposition points that must be scrutinized. Knowledge of our own appetites, in particular, for “food forbidden,” is a necessary awareness. We all have vulnerabilities and a potential willingness to be deceived. This must be guarded against.
“Politically Correct” can be the pursuit of sensitivity to the journeys and experiences of others, particularly others whose experiences are not consistent with our own. However, there times when the pursuit of politically correct can become more of a surrender to smokey clouds of pretense full of sound and fury but having no heart. Caring words can be an expression of care, but there are wolves who look like sheep. The call is to trust, obey, and to be on guard.
Lord, help me to live with integrity today. Fill me both with wisdom and with the desire to be wise in you. Amen
In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:11-12
Our destiny is to be authentic and genuine – to celebrate what is worthy of praise and to turn aside from that which is not. Wise hope is set on Christ. The inheritance of alignment with God’s counsel and will make for integrity and the flow of all things truly glorious. God wills that we will what is good, and for this we must awake to the truths not accessible without Christ.
I can become proud of my studies and faith journey which ironically means to ignore the content of my studies and faith journey. The only remedy is poor in spirit humility which recognizes that I have not graduated and thus need to stay in the master’s class. The pearl of great value is to live for the praise of His glory.
Lord, help me to learn from you today. Amen
I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19
This is peace that passes understanding. These are the higher thoughts and the higher ways. The hope of emergence beyond what can be asked for or imagined. Our intended fulfilment is to be filled full with God and thus to abide in an integrity to what we really are – those connected to and destined for the image and likeness of God. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. It is by him, in him, and through him that we become like him.
I want to live in this godly hope and expect this transformation. I do not want to be mired in the form that is passing away. It is far better to give way to the eternal light which overcomes all that the darkness cannot grasp.
O Lord, increase my capacity to will one thing – purify my heart. Amen
You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
A self-examination, with grace, reveals that we are not what we ought to be. Corruption and delusion are the hallmarks of shallow self-perpetuated “hope” which is incapable of satisfying us even if it “works out.” Our yearnings are like that of a person who eats only junk food and equipped by that inferior “fuel” lacks energy and capacity. The insult that is added to injury for those starving on full belly’s is that there is diminished ability to even consider the possibility of better nourishment. A change of will and mind requires a “fast” from former ways. We will not turn until we are willing to turn.
If I will to be righteous and holy, even for a short time, I must prepare to be changed. Making space, inside and out is a prerequisite to a new filling. Detoxifying from delusion is a slow process with many layers. God’s grace creates a discomfort with what is unhealthy, as well as a filling with that which is life. We who are in the first days of a detox cannot discern the path to health, nor that the pain of losing what we are used to (and has been killing us), is fully and finally a gift of love.
Lord, help me to let go of the things that hold me back from you. Amen
Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:15-16
Time is a gift of God which allows for discovery, growth, and the foundations of anticipating joy. The question regarding what will constitute fulfillment is ongoing and diverse. The proclamation of the scripture is that we cannot serve two masters and we will be moved by the company and mind we keep. Investing in life intentionally not only impacts our experiences but also shapes our appetites. Cultivating a taste for godly things may be the most important use of the time we are given.
Discerning what is a wise use of time is profitable to a point, but life is not well lived if all we do is consider the hypotheticals of living well. As Maureen Fitzgerald suggests, the unexamined life may not be worth living, but neither then would be the unlived life worth examining.
Help Me to live well and wisely, O Lord, making the most of the time. Amen
This is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11
The fruit of grace received is the capacity to mirror God and love. This is what is of value and knowing this gives power to live well and wisely. Purity and righteousness come through Jesus Christ and in resonance with the integrity of all things. Many things seek or project glory, but all truth, and all true glory has its foundation, its essence in the creator. Praising God is telling the truth about “all.”
I can worry over many things, but one thing is necessary. The blessings of the “river” that flows from the life giving one, give life – It is what it is. Any river that does not come from this source leads to a dead sea. To be wise, it to seek the one.
Lord, help me to look to you with all I have today. Amen.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
Essential authenticity is self-aware but not self-focused. God is one and God is community (three in one). The line dividing where I end, and another begins are more than blurry and perhaps do not exist at all. The value of independence is exaggerated. We cannot only be stronger together – for better or worse, we are together. When one suffers the suffering spreads when one rejoices the joy ripples. To pursue selfish ambition or revel in competitive conceit is life having a mouth speak ill of its teeth.
I need to be more appreciative of the “others” in the circle and assume that there are connections. I am faithful to God and even better, like God, when I look for ways to promote another’s interests. This however does not mean that they or I am in full awareness of our “interests,” nor would pandering to another’s selfish ambition promote essential authenticity. This is why we need to seek the mind of Christ.
Let me look to the interests of others, seeking to see through your eyes, O Lord. Amen.
But our citizenship[l] is in heaven, and it is from there that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. Philippians 3:20-21
Somedays it feels like I, and perhaps even the world is falling apart. Things don’t work as I had hoped, or even as I thought they did – it is not only humbling, but it can also be humiliating. It can be if I am fully identifying with the “things” that are falling apart. This experience all changes if I can come to acknowledge that that the state of things is not the final state and live into the hope of glory bigger than the constellation of pieces now in disarray. Jesus transforms humiliation into something wonderous. Our current distresses are a prologue to glory. Jesus has the power to rearrange all things and put everything into good order. Yes, physically, entropy is operational, and things will “fall apart,” but faith is not subject to decay, hope and love are the lasting reality springing up to a glory beyond imagining.
Lord, grant me the power not to live “under the circumstances” and to trust that you are preparing a joy filled glorious realm of enteral peace and joy. Amen
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
Prevention magazine’s editor in Feb 2003 wrote “We don’t describe the world we see; we see the world we describe.” This is not an invitation to deny existence by putting on some kind of fake, rosy, glasses, rather it is a recognition that we see what we look for – our intention directs our attention. To look for examples of bravery and justice is not to deny that there is cowardice and crime, but it is an openness to be inspired in circumstances that are not commendable. Look for what is worthy of praise, and don’t obsess over what calls for a teeth-clenched shaking of the head. God’s true is bigger than the world’s false.
Lord, make me aware of the “what” that is good for me to notice. Amen
We have not ceased praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may lead lives worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, as you bear fruit in every good work and as you grow in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:9-10
Having “knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom…” grants capacity to do something. It leads to a “so that…” It is by grace that we may see the path that is pleasing and fruitful and which also promotes growth but seeing is not the same as doing. The promise is that God will help us to see, but we also must want to look and follow. Paul prays that the infilling will be followed by an outflowing.
Faithful life does more than look, it actually lives. Living the “so that” requires and expectation that inward grace can be make us outward and visible signs, fruitful and pleasing. We must not be content with simply growing knowledge, we must also yearn for work and play which reveals the glory of God.
Lord, make me an outward sign of the love that works within. Amen
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:2-3
Your focus is your reality. What you look for is what you will see. To set the mind on the things above is not to pursue a Pollyanna world of rose-colored distraction, but rather to be open to a reality that is higher and purer, in a word, “right.” It means to seek after a reality which is not stuck on the ground of our limited imagination’s vision for the here and now. To entertain a higher mind is to invite Christ’s possibilities to infuse victories and glory which don’t deny distress but instead overwhelm earthly dis-ease. When we acknowledge this, we can live with a confidence that our lives are much more than the simple pursuit of remaining alive. The alternative is a grounded reality which lives daily in anticipation of final defeat for “all would be vanity and vapor, a run after the wind.”
This orientation can be difficult for me. Managing my appetites – relinquishing my disappointments, and focusing not on the perception of life denied, but rather on the grace given. I need God’s help to grow into the death of earthly things and to open to Christ’s life at work in me.
Lord, help me to let go of my vision for my life and receive yours. Amen
I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:6-7
It is all too easy to look at our own weakness and conclude that the battle is lost. There is always a temptation to make the avoidance of blame our pursuit instead of risking failure in a good effort. The invitation is to give what I can and trust God for the rest. In truth God sometimes teaches us about real power by showing us our weakness, and God can even do great things in our failing. Perhaps our distress is the needed inspiration for another to rekindle and find power, love, and self-discipline.
Cowardice rarely looks beyond limited self-esteemed perceptions of how we would feel or look. Faith makes no assumptions about the value of short-termed opinions or perceptions of feelings. Faith hopes for things not seen and lives in the expectation that God can do more than we ask or imagine. In such a place our willingness to be humbled and taught promotes self-discipline, and even when our fire is failing, God rekindles. It is unwise and unfaithful to tell God what God cannot do.
Lord, make me an instrument and play me when you know that my music adds to the beauty to see. Amen
Have nothing to do with stupid and senseless controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kindly to everyone, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. 2 Timothy 2:23-25a
How important is it to engage in and win an argument? Too often, we make the strength of our convictions the only measure for when and how to interact with others. In this way we can major in the minors and lose track of the main thing. Remembering as the Lord’s servant that our first order is to be a re-presenter of Jesus Christ. Our confidence and hope is that Jesus’ loving presence dominates and directs us, and in a very literal way we can serve as an expression of him. I am not the Lord, but I am called to let my light shine so that all will see and give glory to God. This is a good filter to my words. To consider, is this conversation one that Jesus would engage in or might he change the subject to more important, even eternal things. Loving an adversary is not limited to correcting their ignorance, it might mean being present, caring about them, and providing a space where they can unclench their teeth and maybe open their heart. In any case, love means that “opponents” are not to be destroyed but patiently redirected with gentleness and honor. Just because you can win an argument does not mean that you should.
Lord, help me to be an apt teacher and a better student. I pray for the tongue of those who are taught, that you might use me to encourage others who might also learn. Amen.
Indeed, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13
The common experience in the world is one of decay and destruction. Material things break down and any who place ultimate value on what rust, moth and thieves take, is ultimately investing in a deception. Wickedness might be chosen, but it is most certainly imposed. The dead life of many is captivated by a zero sum game “get mine” attitude which foolishly values “do to others before they can do to you.” Real life is found in love, but that is not how the world sees it.. The challenge of a godly life, the consequences of not playing the “impostor’s” game is worse than just not fitting in. We are wise to expect and prepare for persecution. The living dead will exploit, resist, and perhaps even attack those who have died with Christ and raised to a different reality. We are not to fight fire with fire. Love overcomes evil!
The desire to find peace with this world order let alone to successfully assimilate into it is to lean into a transformation of desolation. Deceived and deceiving imposters grow dull and may no longer realize that their pursuits have sound and fury but no significance. God is not content to leave any of God’s children in this dis-grace. God offers redemption and redirection but we should not expect the world to cheer when a witness proclaims that the emperor has no clothes.
Thank you Lord for redeeming your creation. Help me and us to hunger for our own redemption, even when we are resisted. Amen
To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure. Their very minds and consciences are corrupted. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their actions. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Titus 1:15-16
Virtue and morality are not just churchy words designed to shape social behavior in a “lesser of evils” way. Neither are they simply the absence of vice or immorality in a world in which social convention defines “acceptable” in an ever-sliding scale. Virtue and morality are real things, and the essential foundation that leads to a wholeness that is sustainable. In a word they are integral to integrity. A conscience which has internal alignment doesn’t need to remember what is tolerable today but perhaps wasn’t last week, or vice versa. When we are of the truth and tell the truth no effort is required in trying to keep our stories straight. Lies told in the past in anticipation of lies to be told in the future are an unnecessary labor for those who seek to abide in what is true. There is no need for a vale of secrecy because there is no corruption to hide. Yes, means yes and no, means no. For the corrupt, deception is not just an action, it is a way of being, and this being pervades how they experience everything, including themselves.
Fitness for good work is not a subjective opinion sacrificed in ends justifies the means spin. Fitness for good work is a manifested action of will and capacities which seeks after purity and hungers for what is right regardless of popular sentiment. The pursuit of right is not merely an orientation for activities it is a resignation of will to God and an invitation to have my capacities to be reshaped according to God’s purposes. “Thy will be done!”
Create in me a clean heart, O Lord and renew a right spirit within me.
He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. Titus 2:14
God wills for a people who are righteous and who would reflect the light and love that are God. We are destined to become fully alive and not be merely shadows of flesh pursuing consumers who know only hunger for that which does not and cannot satisfy. God is active in our deliverance and committed to our holiness. To be at peace, content in the discovery of what is good and pure, is the consequence of seeking, asking, and knocking after what God wills to give.
I am invited to have my dispositions and capacities infused by divine purpose and properties. In order for such a transformation to be realized I must accept the freedom to acknowledge my weakness and receive the gift of grace which I do not deserve. In short, my work is in not resisting God’s work of redemption and purification.
Lord, help me to will one thing, celebrate one victory, seek first what is first. Let me gain the ability to decrease so that you might make of me more than I could ask or imagine. Amen
He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3
Jesus is the first and final cause, the reason behind all questions and the ultimate answer to every inquiry. Deviation from his preeminence is to wander into that which is unsustainable. To live under the dominion of any other is to hate the master who is master, and to deny both righteousness and the truth of real glory, majesty, and purity. Our capacity to respond to the majesty on high and to receive purification is in part the first manifestation of God’s love. Our blessed reception of this love, wells up to more reception of love (to one who has shall more be given), and a holiness that overshadows the hollowness of the vanity we routinely mistake for “life.” First and foremost is this truth; Jesus is God, way, truth, and life… listen to him.
It is best for me to always have the Lord as the center of my thoughts and intentions. To elevate any other contemplation or pursue anything apart from Him is to be lost in the ultimately irrelevant. To focus on him and seek to love him in all things is to discover faith and hope which abide and sustain forever.
O Lord, let my thoughts dwell on you and never depart. Amen.
We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:19-20
Hope is not a wishful thinking, pollyannaish projection of my best imagined vision. It is an anticipated expectation to the first and final reality, namely that our self (soul) can be redeemed and that we will be drawn into the purpose for which we exist. Our destiny is our reality because of what God has done, this expectation is hope. Knowledge about our state in redeemed reality is not required, nor is it even to be intensely pursued. Hope is in the director over the direction, for God’s ways are higher and we cannot rightly ask or imagine. Jesus is the expression of our hope – the one who is before all, in all, and with whom we can be joined. When this joining becomes our complete expression, we shall see him as he is, and we shall be like him, those who have this hope purify themselves as Christ is pure.
Lord, increase and perfect by yearning for union with you. Amen
Ah, you who make iniquitous decrees,
who write oppressive statutes,
to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be your spoil,
and that you may make the orphans your prey!
What will you do on the day of punishment,
in the calamity that will come from far away?
To whom will you flee for help,
and where will you leave your wealth,
so as not to crouch among the prisoners
or fall among the slain?
For all this his anger has not turned away;
his hand is stretched out still. Isaiah 10:1-4
Justice is an expression of love. To abide in love is to do right even when right is experienced as wrath. If I make the pursuit of my life to control the materials and physical circumstances around me, I will at best reap whatever I can materially manage. The rules that I apply will be applied to me. Ultimately what comes around goes around – the flower fades and a better manipulator of materials rolls into town.
Lord, guide my priorities – increase my capacity for a right life with integrity. Renew and grow an openness to your justice even if I can get away with something else, for now. Amen
They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13b-16
Our homeland as people of God is a country we have never been to, a hoped-for anticipation of a “meal” about which we have experienced only an occasional scent. We see in a “mirror dimly,” and are ever tempted to surrender this image of a homeland not made with hands for an inauthentic “reality” in the “don’t get your hopes up” present. It is painful to be a stranger on Earth, but God knows our destiny and to become comfortable here, or even numb here, is to lose the capacities to receive the city which is prepared… We need to live into this anticipation and celebrate the home to come.
Lord, Grant me encouragement to seek you first and your righteousness. Live in me and help me to live you out. Amen