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.

GOD AMONG US

As we join together in celebrating God coming to be among us, I wanted to offer something I wrote back in 2014. We remember that Christmas is celebrating God’s plan for victory over sin and death. I hope your Christmas is full of joy and peace. Merry Christmas!

 

The recent flood of movies based on ancient mythology depicts gods with the more base human characteristics of violence, greed, covetousness and murder. The hero god battles the dark side and wins in the end. What a great story line! The same basic story line found in the popular super hero movies. I love them. I’ve been to many. We all love to see good win over evil. There seems to be a feeling of vindication when the hero wins. I like feeling vindicated.  But, (you knew a but was coming) what if the evil that needs to be defeated is inherent in us? You know those base human characteristics. How’s a super hero or a god going to overcome that?

Now think how the actual event of God walking among us differs from the good vs. evil stories we all love. Jesus came as a helpless baby. He walked unassumingly on the earth as one of us. Who knew that he was an all-powerful being through whom the earth was created? He never whipped out his sword and killed the bad guys. Actually, the bad guys killed him. But, (Yes, we know this but.) He rose from the dead. Now there’s a great story line, and it’s a true story. Don’t you love those stories based on real events. It seems to give the story a lot more impact.

Yes, a great story, but how was the victory won? He didn’t kill all of us who have inherent evil. We’re grateful for that. What he did do was:

Romans 8:3b God….. (sent) his own son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man…

By surrendering himself (all-powerful being-God) to death, which appeared to his enemy like defeat, his death condemned sin in sinful man. The victory came in his death and was displayed for all to see by his resurrection. This is a powerful real life story that has impacted us for thousands of years. Wow, God really did come to earth and walk among us. It was very different than our favorite stories. The ways of the real God are not our ways:

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY

In his book Eldon Ladd points out that God’s kingdom is not a place, but is simply his right to rule, his divine sovereignty. God’s kingdom exists right now. We enter god’s kingdom when we surrender our will and except his will. His will being foremost that we receive the gift of his son’s redeeming work. Receiving God’s salvation births us into his kingdom.  We are a new creation in Christ (2Corinthians 5:17) with an existence in God’s eternal kingdom.

Though we who have received salvation in Jesus are now part of his eternal kingdom, we also exist here in the temporal world. How does our new status affect our physical presence here? Eldon Ladd states the answer very nicely, “The kingdom of God is, then, the realization of God’s will and the enjoyment of the accompanying blessings” (*Ladd, page 24).

In my personal experience of realizing God’s will in my life, I have found comfort, protection, maturity, physical and emotional strength, and an overall exciting challenging life. The accompanying blessings are manifest in my family and friends and a meaningful existence. God treats each of his children individually, according to who he created us to be, yet we all benefit from his will and the accompanying blessings.

If you have received Jesus as your savior, you have eternal life in God’s kingdom. You now exist in the realm of God’s divine sovereignty. We will someday leave our existence in the temporal world, but we will continue to live forever with God our Father.

Next week let’s look further into our presence in this world as God’s children.

 

*The Gospel of the Kingdom of God, George Eldon Ladd, Martino Publishing 2011

THE PICTURE OF YOUR LIFE

Have you ever opened a 1000 piece puzzle and dumped the contents out. It’s quite a jumble of pieces and cardboard dust. Now imagine that someone gave you this puzzle in a Ziploc bag without a picture. It would be quite a challenge to put together. Wouldn’t it be nice if somebody came along who knows exactly what the picture looks like? That person could guide you while you worked to put the puzzle together.

Isn’t this what life is like? We don’t know what it will look like. We’re just trying to put the pieces together. And, isn’t Jesus the one who knows the whole picture? When he was on the cross, just before he gave up his spirit, he said, “It is finished.” He had completed the goal of restoring our relationship with God.  Now he’s at work guiding us through life. We should let him. When we pray, we should trust him for the answer. He has the whole picture, and he knows what’s coming.

LET US CELEBRATE

Romans 3:21-24 (The Message), But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift.

Verse 25, God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear.

We have new life in Christ Jesus. That new life begins the moment we believe, and it last forever. Our sins are forgiven and forgotten. We have entered the Kingdom of God. His will guides us and protects us. He is with us no matter what we encounter in our remaining years here on earth.

When we leave the earth we will live in righteousness. We will be together forever. I’d like to add we’ll all be nice, since the sinful nature will be gone. Jesus did all this for us. So let us celebrate what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. I’m looking forward to that time when we’re all together in Heaven. Imagine the celebration.

OUR PLACE BEFORE GOD

Since the beginning man has been fascinated by the universe. We have studied the stars for patterns and worshipped the sun and moon. Astronomers find that the universe is increasingly more vast than they had imagined. The Bible tells us that God spoke it into existence.

I had this contrasting thought this morning, I thought of the magnificence of God. The one who spoke the universe into existence, and then there’s me. So what is my place when I go before God, mouse before a lion, krill in the mouth of a whale? The humblest place I can find is not adequate. Jesus came to help with this dilemma.

He first referred to God as our Father. Father is a perception we can easily relate to. God, being perfect, would represent the ideal father. One who will love us, protect us, teach us, and provide for us.

Jesus went even further when he addressed his disciples. In John Chapter 14 when Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father he replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.

Obviously, Jesus didn’t come as the whole manifest presence of God, but he represented the heart and character of God our Father. Jesus was all that an ideal father would be, and then he humbly gave his life for us.

My conclusion, I am on the receiving end of my relationship with God. My fate is entirely in his hands. I can never repay him for his love, kindness, and mercy. I can never match his humbleness. My place before God is one of gratitude. I will praise him and thank him the best I can for as long as I have breath.

JESUS, THE SOURCE OF LIFE

Our pastor, Eric Nelson, has been speaking on the conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman recorded in John chapter 4. During his discourse Pastor Eric pointed out, “We tend to think that Christianity is about not sinning, but Jesus took care of sin. Christianity is about the source from which we draw life.”

What a great way to express this truth. Our walk with the Lord is not about becoming good people. This should not be our focus. We focus on building our relationship with Jesus and following his lead. The by-product of this relationship is we become better people. We also become more useful servants in God’s Kingdom.

Jesus clarified this with his disciples in John chapter 15. He said, “I am the vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”

To become a better, more useful person, we must draw the sustenance of life from Jesus. Our efforts apart from him are useless.