THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION

(2Corinthians 5:17-19) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Last week I wrote about God’s amazing plan to bring us back to what he desired for us from the beginning.  He reconciled us through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus took our sins upon him and paid the price that we were unable to pay.  So here we are a new creation before God.  He has given us the promise of eternal life – never to be separated from him again.  Can we share a WOW! 

What are we going to do to show our gratitude for this great gift?  We don’t have to do anything to earn this gift because it has already been given.  The Apostle Paul tells us what God wants us to do to show our gratitude.  He has given us the “Ministry of Reconciliation”.  He wants us to tell those we live among: “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” 

Yes, as you think about it, this message is not necessarily going to be received as the good news.  People don’t always believe it, and some simply want to go on sinning.  They are often offended by the message.  Jesus told us to be as wise as serpents, but be as gentle as doves since our ministry is not always effective by using the direct approach.  I have always tried to live in the joy and hope God has given me. I’ve worked to love people, care for them, and pray for them, while waiting for the time to come when their heart is opened to receive the message.  This is how I have approached the ministry of reconciliation, but we are all uniquely gifted by God to share the message in the way he has designed us. 

In loving gratitude, let’s continue to tell of the wonderful, miraculous gift God has given us.  Our sins have been forgiven, and we have eternal life with him available to us.  Thanks be to God that he has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation.

CHRISTMAS MAGIC

Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem

(Luke 2:6-14)  While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.  She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

            And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

            Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

            “Glory to God in the highest heaven,

                  and on earth peace to those on

                        whom his favor rests.”

You hear a lot of talk about the Magic of Christmas at this time of year.  Webster’s definition of magic includes the term “supernatural”.  Christmas is definitely supernatural.  In Luke chapter 2, we read about the birth of Jesus and those who are involved in this one-time event. Think of it, a virgin gives birth, angels appear and give glory to God, and the Savior of the world is an apparently helpless child lying in a manger.  This is real magic; not a slight of hand or an illusion, but God’s kind of magic for it is supernatural.

In our everyday natural lives, we at times experience God’s supernatural intervention.  Someone receives salvation, unexpected generosity, supernatural healing, answered pray, or God’s unforeseen provision.  At Christmas time, we tend to expect these “miracles”.  Of course, God is always at work in our lives, but there is something magical about Christmas.

What could be more magical than the coming of God’s son to save us from our sins?  God’s way of doing this is supernatural, miraculous, and magical. Perhaps Christmas magic is rooted in our hearts because the miracle of salvation has come. 

 I pray that you have a happy and content Christmas celebration, and that the magic of Christmas will be with you throughout the New Year.

THE PLAN OF GOD AND OUR EVERYDAY LIFE

In the first chapter of Matthew, he presents us with a genealogy from Abraham to Jesus.  Each of the people mentioned in this list were just like us going about everyday life.  In all the ups and downs of life, we are all unaware of our specific part in God’s plan.  Yet those mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy are all in the linage of Jesus. 

In his genealogy, Matthew calls our attention to four couples.  These couples are: Judah and Tamar, Salmon and Rahab, Boaz and Ruth, and David and Bathsheba.  They each have their stories recorded in the pages of the Old Testament. 

The story of Judah and Tamar is found in Genesis Chapter 38.  The story of Salmon and Rahab is found in the book of Joshua chapter 2 and culminated in chapter 6 verses 17, 22 and 25. Salmon took Rahab as his wife. His name is not mentioned in the Joshua story, but Matthew’s list confirms him as the father of Boaz.  The story of Boaz and Ruth is found in the book of Ruth.  It’s a great story.  The story of David and Bathsheba is recorded in 2nd Samuel Chapters 11 and 12:1-25. 

The everyday lives of these couples, and all the others mentioned in Mathew’s list of forbearers, played important roles in God’s plan.  Some of them were of Hebrew descent, and some were not.  For three of the couples, sin was obviously part of their story.  Still, they all played a part in the coming of Jesus.  In the course of their everyday lives God brought about his miraculous plan for the salvation of the world.  God’s plan is not finished. 

In our everyday lives, we are living out our part in God’s continuing plan to bring others to salvation.  In the midst of this chaotic world, let’s share the wonderful story of the true meaning of Christmas to all who will listen. Who knows what part our everyday lives may play in God’s miraculous plan.  

A GOOD LIFE

Most people would say, “My overall goal is to have a good life”.  If you asked them what that means or what does that look like, you’d get a human answer.

Planning for a good life requires many assumptions because our lives are terminal and of an unknown number of years.  This is a precarious platform on which to plan.  We don’t know what is going to happen five minutes from now, or if we will be alive five minutes from now.  Statistically, we’re pretty confident that we’ll be living five minutes from now, but you know statistics aren’t that reliable.

We have only one sure way to plan a good life.  I found that way in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” The longer I live, the more I appreciate the wisdom of this proverb.  Since we have no clue about the future, how can we plan for it?  The Lord alone knows what the future holds.  Trusting him provides a great life plan.  I’d like to add this amazing truth that comes with trusting the Lord, “in Christ Jesus death is no longer part of the equation.”

GOD’S KIND OF LOVE

God’s love is other oriented. God’s love is self-denying.  I’m relying simply on what Jesus demonstrated on the cross to make these statements. Jesus thought about us. He put our need for salvation before his own needs.

God’s love is personal. As Jesus ministered with his disciples, he knew each one of them individually. They were intimately involved in Jesus’ mission.

Today we are recipients of God’s kind of love. He continues to look to us and our needs. He knows us personally and draws us into his family.

1Peter 1:17-21 MSG, Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no after-thought. Even though it has only lately – at the end of the ages – become public knowledge, God always knew that he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

EASTER THE PIVOTAL MOMENT

Acts 17:28, “For in him we live and move and have our being.”

The life we have, the life we live, our very existence is in God. Contemplating this I realize that God is everything to us. All else diminishes by comparison. The Almighty created everything we know, everything we understand, the entire universe, and us. The creation and the history of it, to this day, is part of a plan that God set into motion from the very beginning.

Galatians 4:4-5 MSG, But the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law.

Everything Jesus did while here among us was part of God’s plan for us. Jesus suffered humiliation, torture, and a horrible death on the cross to fulfill God’s plan. When Jesus rose from the dead, our redemption and eternal life exploded forth into his creation. This was the pivotal moment in God’s eternal plan to have a loving eternal relationship with his created ones.

HAPPY EASTER!

SAVED SINNERS

(Romans 3:23) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

I’m a sinner. Now say it with me; I’m a sinner. Sin is a part of our human nature since the first rebellious act. However, this is only part of the truth. Romans 3:24 completes the truth, “And are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

In my life, especially in my early years, I did some rather awful things. How should I deal with this? King David gives me an example. In Psalm 51, he repents before God for his sin with Bathsheba. He starts, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.” David knew that God loved him. He understood the love that God has for us which God eventually demonstrated by sending his son Jesus to suffer and die for our sins.

David also asked God to cleanse him from his sin. In God’s sight, faith in Jesus Christ has indeed cleansed us of our sins. Our sins are no longer remembered against us. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

What I learned from King David in Psalm 51 is to humbly repent before God, and he will be faithful to forgive my sins. In Psalm 51:17 He says, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

It is great to be forgiven!

The celebration of the Easter season is upon us. Let’s take time to meditate on the amazing grace God has given us through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus.

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 6

Romans 12:11-13 (MSG) Don’t burn out; keep yourself fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

There are many self-help books addressing the problem of Christians burning out, but self-help is misguiding. I think that being, “alert servants of the Master,” is a key to avoiding burn out. Servants do what the master has instructed them to do. So, I ask myself, “am I doing what Jesus instructed me to do, or am I doing what I think I should do?” The Lord has given us each the gifting and ability to do what he asks us to do. If we step out beyond that we are likely to burn out.

I think it’s important to always be aware that living the Christian life is first and foremost living in faith. Trusting all things to Jesus brings us great freedom from striving. Jesus did all that was necessary for our salvation and eternal life. It is done; it is finished.

God’s Spirit has come to us sealing us for eternity. And his Spirit is working within us to bring about a heart of love. Our main work is simply to surrender to him and trust him.

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 5

Romans 12:9-10 (MSG) Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

In the NIV the first sentence of verse 9 reads, “Love must be sincere.” Sincere love is rooted in the love we receive from God. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). Therefore, we don’t have to fake it. For Christians, love comes as a result of our connection to God. His Holy Spirit lives within us and builds in us this sincere love.

Evil counters love with selfishness. We should run from that. Love produces good, and we should hold on to that. Be a good friend by loving so deeply that you are more concerned for your friend’s success than yours.

Love should be the center of being a Christian. Jesus said it like this: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”(John 13: 34-35)

GROWTH OF THE KINGDOM IN 2020

Galatians 4:4-5, But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.

 

The year 2020 is upon us. What will come about in this year? What time has now come in God’s redemptive plan for his sons and daughters? Jesus’ coming was the pivotal time for God’s Kingdom. Now, the Kingdom grows with each day.

Over the years, the redemptive work of Jesus has brought billions of us into God’s kingdom and, as the above scripture points out, we have gained the rights of sons and daughters. Whose time to enter the Kingdom has come in 2020? Only God knows, but we have a part in his plan.

In this New Year, let us live then as sons and daughters praying for those around us who haven’t entered the kingdom. I’m excited and full of anticipation for the new brothers and sisters that will enter the Kingdom and gain eternal life in the year 2020.

THANKS BE TO GOD IN JESUS CHRIST, AMEN!