LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – PART 1

Romans 12:1-2 (The Message)

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

In Romans chapter 12, the Apostle Paul provides true insight into living the Christian life. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, has done an exceptional job of translating this passage into modern words. So here it is for us. This is how we should go about living the Christian life. As you study through these words, let me highlight what I believe are very important points.

“God helping you” You can’t live a Godly life without God’s help. Jesus died because we couldn’t do it ourselves, and we are in continual need of his help as we walk through our daily life.

The second point is related to the first. “Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” When we become a Christian, God takes over and directs our life. That is if we let him. Too often the pride of man rises up in us, and we find ourselves saying, “Look what I’m doing for God.” It’s not about what we do for God; it’s about what he’s doing in and through us. It is about trusting him and surrendering our will to him.

Chapter 12 of Romans has much more to tell us. For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing more of this in-depth passage on living the Christian Life.

THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM Part 2

Here is part 2 of the story I started last week.

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What the rebel leader failed to realize is that because the son never joined his rebellion he was innocent. The rebel leader could kill his subjects, but he could not kill one who was not his subject. If he did he would forfeit his right to rule. When he was able to have the Son killed his victory dance was immediately cut short. Imagine the moment that he realized by having the Son killed he lost his authority over the new kingdom.

Since the son was innocent he could cleanse the people of the New Kingdom by taking their evil burden upon himself. He took on himself the curse of death and allowed his innocent blood to be shed as a cleansing for the people. Once cleansed the people could now enter the Great Ruler’s kingdom. As a sign to all, the Great Ruler raised his Son from the dead in victory.

Thus began the Great Ruler’s restoration of his rule in the new kingdom. Many of the inhabitants chose to enter his kingdom right away. In his kingdom were eternal life and love and goodness. The rebel leader prowled around trying to stop the growth of the Great Ruler’s kingdom, but he could not.

The son returned to his place in his Father’s realm with the promise to return and completely end the rule of the evil rebel leader. Until then the people could enjoy the cleansing sacrifice he gave to them. Even though they still lived with evil all around them, the joy of their new life sustained them.

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In John 16:33 (The Message) Jesus said to his Disciples, “I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakeable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

So, Take heart! He has won the victory for us. We have eternal life and the blessing of living in God’s Kingdom. Our whole future is bright for we will live in a kingdom of love forever under the rule of a gracious and loving king.

I’d like to leave you with this thought. It is not about the place in which you live, but under whose rule you live. Two choices exist. You can live under the authority of the defeated ruler of this world whose job is to steal, kill and destroy, or under the rule of the God of the universe who has these two guiding rules, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. I think the choice is that simple.

A FATHER’S DISCIPLINE

I love this post from several years ago. It is not only encouragement for us in our relationship with God, but an example for earth bound fathers. We can see that discipline takes patience, love, and help.

I came to the realization today that God has me in a tight spot with no wiggle room. I can’t wiggle myself out of this situation. The only thing I can do is trust Him. I have a tendency toward self-reliance, but I can’t think myself out of this one. God knows me so well. I chuckle at myself as I realize that God has infinite patience. He can wait me out. I am slowly surrendering.

As I ponder this quandary, I recognize the Father’s touch. He loves me enough to work in my life. He is disciplining me. I then remember the words of Hebrews 12:5-6:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

The God of the universe is taking time for me! He loves me enough to discipline me. I can’t take this lightly.

 

I now have a choice. I can humble myself and learn the lesson, or I can resist and gain nothing. Surrendering to discipline is not easy. Verse 11 reminds us, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” Yes, I concur that it’s painful, but the verse continues, “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” I hope I can stick it out. I will definitely need His help.

 

I pray by God’s mercy and grace that I will learn this lesson. May my heart be humbled and encouraged, so I might reap the fruit of this lesson and gain what the Father intends for my life.

SHOW ME YOUR WAYS LORD

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. (Psalm 25:4&5)

This week, I’ve been meditating on Psalm 25. In this psalm, David expresses his trust In God, and explores what it means to follow God. Those of us who make decisions from a Godly perspective are often thought foolish by worldly standards. David asks, “Do not let me be put to shame.” But, David knew that those who follow the ways of the world will eventually be put to shame.

Verses 4 and 5 of Psalm 25 were part of a worship song we sang many years ago, so those words are very familiar to me. However, I never spent much time thinking about the words, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.” David articulates, in these words, the desires of all God’s children. Show me, God, how it’s supposed to be; guide me and teach me.

As I reflect on my years of following the Lord, they have indeed been learning his ways and seeking his path for my life. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in this favorite passage:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28&29)

My human nature continually fights against this rest that Jesus offers, but I stay in the battle, for I have this burning desire. I want to know his ways and learn his paths.

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.

THE LORD OUR TEACHER

This week, I’m still gleaning from Psalm 25.  Verses 4 and 5 read, Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  And again in verses 8 and 9, Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.  He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.  God doesn’t leave us on our own.  Those who come to him he teaches.

As I read these four verses, I remember all that God has shown me through the years.  He has guided me, shown me his truth, instructed me in what is right, and taught me his ways.  He has indeed made life easier.  I say this because I remember how it was when I went my own way.  It was not easy, and it was not smooth.

Let me share an example with you.  When my children were young, I directed and corrected them as a father should.  When they became adults, I released my control of their lives to God.  He is really their father.   He taught me to surrender them to him.  This was hard to do, but very important.

Well it hasn’t gone as I would have planned, but I am very pleased with how things are turning out.  God has patiently worked in their lives.    God’s way is building fine adults that I am very proud of.  By staying out of God’s way, I have gained great relationships with my adult children.  I would never have known how to accomplish this, but God did.  All praise, honor, and glory are to our great God.  His ways are beyond our ways.

RIVER OF LOVE

One of the truths that our Pastor is continuingly emphasizing is that God loves us.   He also says that God’s love is hard for us to comprehend.  I think we all know this.  There’s not an abundance of examples of this kind of love here on earth. 

The other day, I was singing an old song, “I’ve Got a River of Life Flowing Out of Me”, and I thought of this analogy.

God’s love for us is like a river flowing to us.  We throw rocks of sin into this river; they make ripples, but they never stop the flow.  When we choose a life of sin, sometimes, we actually dam up the flow, but the pressure of his love is always there.  One act of repentance permits his love to breach the dam.  And if we allow it, the flow of his love will continue to wash away the dam, and his love will pour into our lives.  Receiving his love makes us a new person.

This river of God’s love doesn’t stop with us; it flows through us and blesses those around us.  When we doubt his love, the waters get murky and hinder the blessings we can bring to others.  Once again, our quest in this life is to learn to trust God.  A big part of this is to trust that he loves us.  The enemy of our souls will shoot fiery darts from the banks of the river to make us doubt God’s love.  The shield of faith will divert them.