HEIRS OF GOD

(Romans 8:14-17) For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.  The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about you adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

I know that what The Apostle Paul is saying in these verses is true, because I believe the Bible is true, but I have trouble projecting what this will actually mean.  “Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”  It is too glorious to imagine.  However,  maybe it’s good that I don’t fully comprehend all that God has planned for his children.  Can you envision me walking down the street all puffed up with the knowledge that I’m a co-heir with Christ.  I’d be annoying and useless.

So then comes the humbling part, God’s wonderful plans and promises are available to us because Jesus suffered and died to redeem us.  We were dead in our sins, and not co-heirs with Christ.  Jesus made it all possible.  As the last sentence in our scripture passage points out, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  We have a life to live out here in this fallen world.  It’s not always going to be easy as we share in his sufferings.  Yet in humble gratitude we trust that the God who saved us has some unimaginable plans for us his children.

RECONCILIATION BETWEEN PEOPLE

(Matthew 5:23&24) Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

We have been looking at reconciliation between fallen mankind and God.  Since God is holy and righteous, and man is a condemned sinner, there had to be a leveling of position for reconciliation to be possible.  God had a great plan to bring this about.  He sent his only begotten Son.    Jesus gave us the righteousness we needed by paying for our sins on the cross.  Jesus made it possible for us to be reconciled to God.  All we have to do is receive what God has done.

Today let’s explore reconciliation between people.  When it comes to person-to-person reconciliation, we are already on a level playing field with each other because we are all sinners.    In cases between individual, there has to be a change from both sides for reconciliation to occur.  However, in the above verses from Matthew, Jesus tells us to go and initiate the process.

Sometimes just our willingness to go to our brother or sister is enough to begin reconciliation.  Other times when we go to someone they are totally unwilling to work with us.  We can only do our part.  The rest has to be given to prayer.  I’m reminded that only God can truly change our hearts.

The apostle Paul tells us “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).  Reconciliation between us and our fellow humans is important.  The love of God and the love he puts in our hearts for one another should encourages us to seek peace with each other.  Confronting an issue that has come between us and a brother or sister is not always easy, but peace and restored fellowship is the goal that makes the effort worthwhile.

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.

PLEASING GOD

(1Corinthians 5:9 MSG) But neither exile nor homecoming is the main thing.  Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions.

A couple of days ago I read the devotional for March 17th from “My Utmost for His Highest” by Oswald Chambers. For his words of that day he used the above scripture, and he pointed out that the first aim of every child of God is to please God.  It made me think again of the father child relationship, and yes, it should be the goal of every child to please their father.  But what happens when that is not the child’s goal?  What happens when the child wants to do their own thing against the father’s wishes? 

From the father’s perspective it is painful when a child goes beyond our instructions, steps out on their own, and gets them self in trouble.  You tried to warn them, but they did it anyway.  At first you’re angry with them, but as time passes your love for them causes you to forgive them, and you are always motivated to make a way for them to get through the consequences and be restored.

(Psalm 103:8-13) The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west so far has he removed our transgressions from us.  As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.

Our Heavenly Father is the perfect Father.  I imagine that he feels pain when we sin against him, but as this passage from Psalm 103 tells us, he forgives his children and removes our sins from us.  He wants to restore us to himself.  How does he get us through the consequences of our sins?  He sent his only begotten Son to pay the consequences for all of us for all of time.

(Hebrews 11:6) And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

I want to please God; I’m a sinner.  I can’t always please him, but I do my best.  When I fall, he is always there to pick me up.  So, faith is the key to pleasing God.  I believe in God, I trust in God, and through faith I know he will always be my Father. 

FEARING GOD?

 (Ecclesiastes 12:13)  Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.

Have you ever wondered about what it actually means to fear God?  Imagine that you got in trouble at school, and your mother had to come and pick you up.  You’d have fear of your mother, but then your mother would say these dreaded words, “wait till your father gets home”.  These words would strike a deeper fear.  Well, if you had a good loving relationship with your father, you might be afraid of what punishment was coming, but you’d also have a hurt in your heart because you had let your father down.  God calls himself our Father, and that helps us understand what the fear of God is like.  For those who didn’t have the perfect father experience, this might present us with a somewhat confused understanding of what it means to fear God.

Last Sunday, our pastor used electricity as an example for fearing God.  Electricity is all around us, and we depend on it greatly.  However we also know that if we stick a fork in an outlet we’re going to get electrocuted.  So we respect electricity and have a healthy fear of it. 

The sun is another power source that we respect and maintain a healthy fear toward.  Not only does the sun provide heat for us, but through the process of photosynthesis it also provides directly or indirectly all the food eaten by us and the other living creatures on the earth.  The sun is a life sustaining power that we can’t live without.  Now put on your bathing suit and go lay in direct summer sunlight for 5 or 6 hours and you will experience another aspect of the sun’s power by developing a painful sun burn.  My worse sun burn was obtained in the tropics in a period of one hour.  The pain was excruciating. I became nauseous and could hardly move.  I definitely have a healthy fear of the sun’s power.

God is the ultimate power and the creator of all other sources of power known to man.  He has power over the physical world and the spiritual world.  Fearing God is an intelligent decision, yet there is so much more to God then raw power.  God is also a being filled with love, patience, kindness, and forgiveness. In my years of knowing God, I’ve come to love him, and I feel very close to him. I desire to please God because he loves me, and I love him. He is like the perfect father to me.  So let me then close with this scripture.

(1 John 4:16-18)  So we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.  This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgement: In this world we are like Jesus.  There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with judgment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

THE DEPTHS OF GOD’S LOVE FOR US

(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(Genesis 2:15-17) The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

(Romans 6:23) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Galatians 4:4&5) But when the set 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 adoption to sonship.

In John 3:16 it is stated that God so loved the world.  We are part of the world he loves.  Since we are loved so much, he definitely doesn’t want us to perish.  In the verses from Genesis, we find the warning from God not to eat from the forbidden tree.  Adam ate from the forbidden tree and brought sin and death into our world.  As a result, we all have the sinful nature from our ancestor Adam; therefore, we are all under the sentence of death that Adam received.  This presented a dilemma for God.  He loves us all and wants us to be with him eternally.

God is just, so the sentence of death had to be carried out; but God, who is never surprised by events, saw this coming, and he made a plan to redeem us.  He sent his one and only son.  Jesus came to earth, took our sins upon himself, and paid for them with his death on the cross. He fulfilled the requirements of the law for us all.  Our death sentence was cancelled.  Justice was served, and God’s redemption plan was completed.

God loves us, and he demonstrated the depth of his love for us by sending his one and only Son to the cross.  Through this great and terrible sacrifice, redemption has been accomplished.  I believe that he is now eager for us to come to him.  God has given us opportunity for the eternal life that he always intended for us.

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.

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 IS PERSONAL WITH HIS CHILDREN

Last week I made this statement, “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.” The truth of this struck me. We are his disciples, and he knows each one of us individually. We are intimately involved in his mission.

That being said, it stands to reason that by examining Jesus’ interaction with his disciples a clearer understanding of our relationship might be gained. Jesus taught his disciples directly, he occasional rebuked them, and always forgave them. We don’t have Jesus physically here with us to teach us, but his indwelling Holy Spirit teaches us in the most intimate way by leading us and guiding us. Jesus sometimes rebukes us, but he always forgives us. He knows we are humans.

In John chapter 14, Phillip says to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus’ response is very revealing, “Don’t you know me, Phillip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” I take from this that the Father’s and the Son’s interaction with us is the same. The broad perspective here is that God’s interaction with us is always the same whether with God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit. God is personal with his children.

A great deal of Jesus’ interaction with his disciples is portrayed in John chapters 14-16. Reading those chapters, thinking about how personal these exchanges are, has given me clarification for my relationship with Jesus. I hope you have a chance to explore these chapters and embrace that experience as well.

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.