Christian Contemplations

Mar. 7, 2020

Psalm 91: 2 (AMPC) “I will say of the Lord, He is my Refuge and my Fortress, my God; on Him I lean and rely, and in Him I [confidently] trust!"

It is helpful to picture this dwelling place - as revealed in verse 1 - as a refuge or a fortress. Think about the pictures you have seen of ancient castles, hewn from the very mountain in which they are set. These to be sure can be called strongholds! Often on one side is a sheer cliff that drops hundreds of feet straight into the ocean. The sea crashes against this “wall” in all its great force and fury relentlessly, but in futility, for it cannot penetrate what is on the other side of that wall. Nor can any invading force arriving by ship even hope to enter and overtake. Those who arrive to attack will likely not survive their own efforts.

Huge walls surround this fortress on its other sides, which themselves are surrounded by craggy mountains and beast filled forests that threaten anyone who might be so audacious as to attempt to storm such a refuge.

A drawbridge is its front door - the only way in. Only those with the King’s permission can enter, coming and going, doing his bidding. Only one path leads to this entrance, a circuitous and narrow way. It is well protected by heavily armed and well trained guards, vigilant day and night as they patrol this path and surveil from its towers. One look at them would make anyone approaching think twice about his reasons for doing so! Unless of course his intention is to surrender himself in full to the King, to once and for all throw himself down before the mercies of the throne.

Spiritually speaking, King and Fortress and Refuge are one for such souls. The WAY to the fortress is through Jesus Christ alone, for any in need of God’s mercy, protection, and healing. Everything necessary is inside, for those who have greatly realized their need, having been assaulted by thieves and robbers (false teachers, the devil, the world system, and the flesh, and more - all adversaries of this fortress and those who seek refuge in Him). 

Those who seek asylum in this refuge will never be turned away, for here we have Jesus’ own promise to such souls: “All whom the Father has given (entrusted) to Me will come to Me; and him who comes to Me I will most certainly not cast out - I will never, no never, reject one of them who comes to Me.” (John 6:37 AMPC) 

Life may not seem like such a dwelling place. Even our churches - because of the culture which has assaulted and penetrated all too many of them - may no longer seem like places where it is conducive to finding a spiritual refuge, a place of quiet and reverence, where there is any sort of genuine sense of being “en-fortressed” by the Almighty.

Paradoxically this may have its purpose. Might it be in order for us to better redirect our orientation and intention toward a more prayerful and personal experience of our Lord God as refuge and fortress, in preparation for a time when the outer structures may not be as easily accessible?  Or so that we may be as Mary of Bethany who sat at Jesus’ feet to learn of Him, to comprehend and apprehend Him as refuge and fortress - as the Holy Spirit, through His written Word, makes us increasingly aware that, through Christ alone by grace through faith, we now indwell Him and He indwells us? Could it be so that we become intimately acquainted with the Omnipotent yet personal One Who is not bound by walls made by man?

This is He Who “richly and daily supplies me with everything I need to support this body and life. He shields me from all danger, and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does out of pure fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me.” (Luther’s Small Catechism)

Can it get any better than this? 

So we can pray this verse in praise of Him in Whom we live, move, and have our being, You are my refuge! You are my fortress, my God in Whom I trust! All thanks and praise be to You alone for this magnificent reality given to me because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ Who purchased and won me to be Your own! Let me live continually, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, in the awareness of Your life transforming love for me. Amen.

Mar. 6, 2020

"He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall remain stable and fixed under the shadow of the Almighty [Whose power no foe can withstand]." (Psalm 91:1 AMPC) 

What might it mean to dwell in this “place”, the Presence of the One Who is the Person of God Himself? We can only come into this through our Lord Jesus Christ, as we continually trust in Him. We’re shown here that we remain “stable and fixed,” as we “dwell in” - abide, remain, stay put - through abiding faith / trust / confidence in our Lord! 

This entire Psalm is chock full of many promises to those who love God and have been brought to faith in Christ. We should take this to heart, “For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their Yes [answer] in Him [Christ]. For this reason we also utter the Amen (so be it) to God through Him [in His Person and by His agency] to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20.) Therefore, this is a good Psalm to keep before us in these days of great instability and disinformation and obfuscation, to meditate on it, and to personalize it as a prayer - even commit it to heart. 

Remember - We can take the cue from the very beginning - Psalm1:1,2 about where to fix our prayerful thoughts and attention:  “Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, and enviable) is the man who walks and lives not in the counsel of the ungodly [following their advice, their plans and purposes], nor stands [submissive and inactive] in the path where sinners walk, nor sits down [to relax and rest] where the scornful [and the mockers] gather. But his delight and desire are in the law of the Lord, and on His law (the precepts, the instructions, the teachings of God) he habitually meditates (ponders and studies) by day and by night.” 

The promise here in Psalm 91:1 is that no foe can withstand the power of Christ (to Whom is given all authority in heaven and on earth, per Matthew 28:18). Often the biggest foe is where we fix our attention. Will it be on this life’s concerns, or riches and wealth, the news, worries, or some other thing? Or instead might we “look up”?! “If then you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth. For [as far as this world is concerned] you have died, and your [new, real] life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:1-3) Realize that if your new life is hidden with Christ in God, then you can see that you dwell in that “secret place” spiritually, and these promises are yours! 

Isn’t it worth knowing what they are? A daily verse by verse prayerful contemplation of Psalm 91 might be a very fruitful place to start, to make His promises your own, if you can see that you are God's own in Christ Jesus!

Jan. 18, 2020

Ephesians 2:3 (context verses 1-10). Among them (referring to those dead in trespasses and sins, the sons of disobedience under the prince of the power of the air) we too all (“we” - clearly Paul includes himself, although he had been quite “religious”) formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

At times it can seem like life is giving us a beating. The following are some thoughts about what this might be about, if we love Jesus and are truly desirous to follow Him. It helps to get some clarification on how things work in this relationship with Him.

When we are born of the Holy Spirit, or “born from above”, there is a difference between what we were by nature and what we have become and are becoming in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. There is nothing short of a spiritual sea change (a transformation) - in thought, attitude, word, deed, worldview, and more. Everything of the self centered, self absorbed life decreases as Christ increases. That includes self righteousness appealing to human pride. Sometimes this is fast and drastic; at other times the pace is very slow. It depends on what God is doing and what He has in mind for the individual.

Locally along the coast of Lake Michigan, where the Great Lakes are sometimes referred to as the “Inland Seas”, we are being given a glimpse of this by the powerful forces of nature - if only we have eyes to see it. There is much of the “sea” rising up against the shore - sand, dunes, bluffs, trees, flora and fauna, trees, and even a few houses of those who have built on the sand are being washed away. The dirt and rocks are no match for the power of ever encroaching wind and waves combined. A sea change is being imposed upon the land by the forces of nature. 

Could this be a lesson God has placed in front of us through His creation? As the purpose of the water and wind will have its way, so shall the purpose of God!

The soil, sand, and whatever is growing from it, or is built on it, is being washed away by the power of the water. The “dirt” must go. It stands in the way of God’s plans and purposes for our life, to remold and reshape us into His likeness. We cannot move what stands in the way of that of our own volition. We are part of it in fact. But it cannot stand against the Holy Spirit, represented by the strong wind and relentless waves. Once this process is occurring, it reconfigures everything, never to be the same again. This is God’s kind of “re-formation”. It may mean a dismantling of how things have been entirely, followed by a restart. 

This analogy might be a poor one. When we ask and keep on asking for the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:5-13), He does not damage us irreparably. He demolishes within us that which keeps us captive to the prince of this world, the works of the devil in us which Jesus came to destroy (1 John 3:8), his “hooks” of the world, and the flesh. He does not damage us like the waters beating against the shore, but He does “storm” the kingdom of darkness within us which has established a beachhead and a foothold in His kingdom! This occupation of His Kingdom by darkness is not to be allowed. Our body and being are God’s holy temple, and His will is to remove all within it that has been set up by the prince of this world (with our complicity!), that stands against His good intentions for us, which is His love and blessing. That is what brings brings Him glory.

At the same time He restores and rejuvenates us, evidentially validating all of God’s promises, which are yea (sure) and amen (firm) in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).

If one is born from above, the process goes on to which we surrender, like the sands must surrender to the invincible sea - to His grace which changes us, causing a sea change within us. At times God’s love must be tough and persistent as a maelstrom. So it is good to understand that this can be a possibility. 

See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. Deuteronomy 32:39. 

If anyone is experiencing God’s sea changes, the evidence will be that we will see changes in that person. This witnesses to the reality taking place, in a living relationship with Christ Jesus. The old heart - core of the being and its motivations - is replaced by a heart that resembles Jesus, because His transformation is taking place within. What takes place on the inside is seen on the outside. At some point. Sometimes quickly. Sometimes very gradually.  

For truly, we are His workmanship! (Ephesians 2:10).

Jan. 1, 2020
Whence cometh this pervasive, earth encompassing, escalating consciousness of violence? How is it to be stopped? Where to begin? Is it too late?
 
“'Put your sword back in its place,'” Jesus said to him. “'For all who draw the sword will die by the sword.'" Matthew 26:52.
 
"Sword": Substitute your weapon of choice.
 
"For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly." 1 Peter 2:21-23.
 
These are hard sayings.
 
“... If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31,32.
 
Maybe because there’s been no continuation or consistency with abiding in His teaching, we don’t know His truth from experience, and consequently have not been truly freed by it. What He’s talking about here is essentially “empirical theology.” In other words the proof is in the practice, not just in the head. Reaction or faith?
 
The bottom line is, as Christians we’re not in this world to be of it, or act like it, or take on its ways. Oh! That radical Jesus!
 
Something to pray about and ponder.
Jan. 1, 2020

We can see Jesus’ example when the heat was on, in ways you and I cannot imagine.

Jesus’ Arrest:   'Then said Jesus unto Peter, "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"' John 18:36.

Jesus On Trial:    'Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world; if it were, My servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jews. But now, My kingdom is not of this realm."' John 18:11.

Jesus’ Execution / Crucifixion:    'And Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do." And they cast lots, dividing His garments.' Luke 23:34.

There's something deeper here than meets the natural eye. How did Christ walk? How was He led? How did He know His Father's will for Him, which was the way of the Cross? He was led of the HOLY Spirit. (See Matthew 4) He spent many hours in prayer (communion with the Father).

Although the Son of God, 2nd person of the Holy Trinity, 'Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.' Philippians 2:6-8.

'During the days of Jesus’ earthly life, He offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.' Hebrews 5:7-9

'Whoever claims to abide in Him must walk as Jesus walked.' 1 John 2:6.

'Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.' Romans 13:14.

'Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit.' Galatians 5:24, 25.

'The greatest among you shall be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let in those who wish to enter.' Matthew 23:11-13.

"fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:2,3.

This is all a reminder of some lyrics from an old song: "Dance in the darkness, slow be the pace; surrender to the rhythm of redeeming grace..." by Carey Landry