How NEW Is Your New Life?

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5.17

On this New Year’s Eve most people are anticipating the New Year and leaving behind a lot of baggage from 2016 and entering 2017 with a fresh start. We sometimes have a grandiose vision of a “new life” that is far different from what we experienced in 2016.

Let me pose a question about a “new life” that we may have overlooked, forgotten about, or perhaps have never had an opportunity to experience. I am talking about the new life in Christ that the Apostle Paul is speaking about in our verse above.

Look at his words: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature … ” The word “Therefore” requires a backward glance so we get the context. In verses 14-15 he has just told us: “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” Paul has just reminded the Corinthian believers (and us) that since Christ “died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which had died for them …”

God has every right to hold us to a different standard after salvation. And “Why?” you ask? Because “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” Our everyday lives should be characterized by what HE wants for us, not by what WE want for us. As we enter this new year, I am not asking for any New Year’s Resolutions, but rather a willingness to allow God’s Holy Spirit to exercise the Life of Christ in us sin such a way that others can SEE Christ in us.

Let’s let this new life that we have in Christ (even though we may have been saved a long time) shine forth so brightly in 2017 that others will want to know, “What happened to you? You act so much different.” These are just my humble thoughts for you and me for this New Year …

We Get Both!

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4.16

How much do you know about tomorrow? About the New Year? About the rest of life itself? If you are honest, your answer must be, “I don’t know anything for CERTAIN about tomorrow, the New Year, or the rest of my life.”

Would it be right then to conclude that you and I are in need of “grace to help in time of need”? I know that I surely need God’s grace to help me in my times of need, and they seem to become more frequent the longer I live.

What does the writer of Hebrews tell us about God and our needs? Let’s look: “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace … ” A throne speaks of a king. A king is one who has absolute power over life and death. But THIS throne is characterized by an unusual element – GRACE! Someone has made and acronym from this word: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Everything God chooses to give me as an act of His grace is because of the work Christ did on Calvary.

Now let’s notice one more significant truth: “ … that we may obtain mercy … ” When I think of grace, I am amazed because I am receiving something that I do not deserve. But when I think about mercy, another truth surfaces. I am NOT getting what I do deserve. Each of us are born sinners, aliens from God and we deserve hell, but God, in His grace and mercy, chooses to give us eternal life with Him because we have received His Son as our Savior.

In the New Year that is upon us, let’s make the conscious choice to live for God and take full advantage of His request for us to come to His “throne of grace” to obtain mercy and “find grace to help in time of need.” Just my thoughts …

Waiting – Not Wantonness

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40.31

Have you ever been in a waiting room at a hospital … especially a maternity waiting room? People keep looking at their watches. They pace the floor and say things like, “Why doesn’t the doctor tell us something? ” or “I hope that baby comes soon. I can’t take much more of this.”

Waiting in all of life’s situations is a place where God allows us to go when we suddenly realize that we do not control the outcome of anything that we are “waiting” on. Isaiah gives us some solid advice in this verse: “ … they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength … ” We don’t think of that time as a time of renewal, but we can actually allow our bodies to rest, our emotions to settle down, and our spirits to be refreshed by God.

Look at what can be accomplished while we are waiting: (1) our perspective of the situation can change (they shall mount up with wings as eagles). Sometimes this is exactly what God wants to accomplish in our lives. What can an eagle see when he is flying high in the sky? He gets a good look at “the big picture.” That often changes everything.

(2) the energy needed to embrace the new situation is granted (they shall mount up with wings as eagle). You have heard people say something like, “I just getting my second wind.” They have stopped long enough to allow spirit, soul, and body to get in sync with each other.

Finally, (3) they are able to carry on a normal spiritual walk with the Lord with a renewed gait. God wants us to have a “normal” walk with Him, not something that is strained or exhausting.

I Told You I Would!

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41.10

God always knows WHEN to speak certain words to His children. This verse begins with “Fear thou not …” Whatever it was that was facing Israel, God knew they needed to hear the words, “Fear thou not …” What is the ONE thing that would guarantee His people the sense NOT to be afraid? Here it is: “ … for I am with thee … ” The Great “I Am” said, “… I am with thee …” What more could they/we want but the guarantee of God’s presence?

God issues a second bit of encouragement: “ … be not dismayed …” What does “dismayed” mean? “To cause (someone) to feel consternation and distress:” It is much like the phrase in Psalm 37 when God says, “Fret not … “ When should they not be “dismayed”? Once again the answer is clear: “ … for I am thy God … ” God was saying to His children then and His children now, “”I’ve Got This!”

Take special note of God’s promises here: (1) I will strengthen thee; (2) yea, I will help thee; (3) yea, I will uphold thee …

And how will He do this? “ … with the right hand of my righteousness.” For us to doubt God’s promises, as Israel did on many occasions, is to say to God, “You CAN’T do everything you promise. You don’t have the ability to address my problem, much less fix it.”

We are just a few days away from a new year. None of us knows what this year will hold. We don’t know if we will even be ALIVE at the end of this year. We know NOTHING about what this New Year will bring. But the GOOD NEWS is, God KNOWS. That is enough for me. How about you? Just my thoughts …

Am I Listening?

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” Matthew 28.19

We are two days past Christmas and someone has already posted how many shopping days are ahead before next Christmas. Let’s take a mental journey into these last few days before 2017. Many will set goals – some achievable and some not so achievable – for the New Year. A good number of us will set goals to lose weight, get our bodies back into shape, and/or be a better husband, wife, daughter, or son.

But as followers of Christ, how do we go about setting realistic goals that would be consistent with what God wants for us? In the verse above there is the word “Go …” But before we go, are there some other things that need to be in place? It would seem to me that we need at least a working knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. I cannot “tell” something I do not “know.”

In addition to “knowing”, we also need to know how to converse with our Leader and how to wait on His answers. That is called prayer and meditation. I am afraid we have allowed some others to scare us away from “meditation,” but it is a vital part of changing what I believe, how I think, and how I feel. While serving God is not about making us feel good, we need to believe we have divine direction FROM God, and our thought processes help us understand how to think about what God tells us. Then obedience to what we know about God’s plan yields a certain amount of the right kind of feeling.

In the verse above, God’s command to His church to “Go … teach … and baptize” is instruction to us and for us as part of the local church and the family of God. So perhaps we should consider our involvement in our local church and ask God if there is something more He would have us do, or are there some things that we just need to do better. Just my thoughts …

What Have I Told?

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” Luke 2.20

What a marvelous opportunity these shepherds had to be the first to KNOW about the birth of the Christ child and the first to have a message to share with others. V. 17 tells us: “And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.” On the way back to their sheep they could not CONTAIN the good news they had just witnessed. I would like to have seen the faces of these shepherds as they met someone and began to tell them Who they had just seen.

This message was a WORLD-CHANGING message. God did not allow these words to be put here to simply fill space on a page. He intended for US to read them too. So here is the question we must answer: “Who have we told?” The ordinary common folk (the shepherds) couldn’t wait to tell others they met of Who they had just seen.

It seems so sad to me that God’s people today are afraid that someone MIGHT be offended if we tell them about the Christ. Christ IS the hope of the world. Christ IS the answer to questions dealing with eternity. Christ CAME to be the Savior of the world. But “untold millions are still untold.”

One of the wonders of Christmas is to watch family members open a package we gave them and react with joy. Children’s faces are especially reflective of their happiness as they discover something they WANTED but weren’t sure they would GET it.

The gift God gave the world over 2000 years ago was THE gift we needed most and some still don’t know it. Could we set a goal for the new year of 2017 to ask God to give us an opportunity at least once a week to share our faith in Jesus with someone who doesn’t know Him? Just my thoughts …

Unto Us a Child Is Born

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9.6

The day is almost over and some of us have had time with family to help celebrate Christmas. I would like us to focus for a moment on something besides our gifts and someone besides our family. His name is Jesus!

The book of Isaiah is called the Book of Immanuel for a number of reasons. This verse is certainly one of them. When we couple this verse with Isaiah 7.14, we begin to see the depth of Isaiah’s writings.

For unto us a child is born …” Isaiah was writing to a people who were looking forward to the coming of the Savior. “Unto us …” The Son of God came as a baby. No one would THINK to reject a baby. Nothing is more exciting that welcoming a new baby into this world. We want to encourage the new parents to “get this parenting thing right.” It is a wonder that any first-born child ever lives since we all are going through on-the-job training. Mary and Joseph were no different.

and the government shall be upon his shoulder …” This is a prophetic statement about the coming kingdom of God. That must have seemed strange to his parents.

“ … his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” These names are so all inclusive and descriptive. Time and space will not permit a full exploration of these names but let’s consider them briefly.

Wonderful counselor” – as a counselor myself, I have often gone to this Wonderful Counselor to seek His counsel. I realize that in my own human strength I cannot “fix” any one, but this Wonderful Counselor can.

The mighty God …” I was eating lunch with a friend one day who had come to me for counsel. In the course of our conversation he said, “God can’t do that.” My response was, “Maybe your God can’t but my God can.” He is “The mighty God.

The everlasting Father …” Once again we are face-to-face with something we struggle to understand. This Father is not going away. He is always going to be accessible to you and me.

The Prince of Peace.” Wow, does our world ever need peace? You and I know that Christ will return one day and bring a kingdom of peace. But may I suggest that you and I can and should enjoy His peace everyday because He resides in our hearts and can deliver that peace just when we need it most. Remember WHO He is and never doubt WHAT He can do. Just my thoughts …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amazed or Amused?

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Luke 2.13-14

How many times have you read these verses or heard them read, or for me, preached from them? Our family has a tradition that we have observed through the years. We read this Luke 2 passage before we open our gifts.

But back to the question. Have we become so familiar with the words that we really don’t listen to them any more? God chose an angel to deliver the message to the shepherds and with this angel was “with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God …” Wouldn’t you like to have been a little field mouse nearby and been able to see the looks on the faces of the shepherds? Earlier in this passage it says “they were sore afraid.” (v. 9) I can’t say that I blame them. How would you like to be startled by an angel and then listen as this heavenly host accompanied them with “14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”?

We have an advantage over these men, because we are able to look back and read all the accounts connected to the birth of Christ and piece the story together. They had only the moment when the angel appeared and the heavenly host began to praise God. But they were so moved by the message of the angel that they hastened to the side of the manger “to see this thing which is come to pass.”

Let’s move the truth of this story to our present day. You and I are familiar with the intricate workings of scripture that brought this story to fruition. Are we STILL amazed at the truth that God chose to live among us? Are we moved in our hearts to share the sacred truth that this baby brought salvation to the entire world? Or are we so familiar that the amazement is gone? May God help us focus this Christmas season on “the wonder of it all!” Just my thoughts …

 

Surprised? Surprised!

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” Luke 2.6-7

I have tried for some time to imagine how Joseph must have felt when the innkeeper said to him, “I’m sorry sir, but I have no rooms left in the inn.” Outside, on the donkey he has led from Nazareth to Bethlehem, sits the woman to whom he is engaged and she has already said to him, “Joseph, it’s time. The baby is coming – now!” Can you sense the frustration he must have felt? “How do I tell here there is no room? She must have a place to give birth to this baby, this divinely conceived child, this Savior of the world?” The angel had already told Joseph to “call his name Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1.21.

Look at the progression here: (1) she brought forth her first-born son, (2) she wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and (3) she laid him in a manger. I am told by some that when a woman goes through the birth process, she is never more near death that when she is giving birth. Mary had no epidural, no anesthesia, nothing to soften her pain. She simply “brought forth her firstborn son.” And then she looked around for a soft baby blanket to wrap him in, but there was none – only strips of cloth, swaddling clothes (narrow bands of cloth wrapped around a newborn child to restrain its movements and quiet it).

And then she “laid him in a manger (a feeding trough for animals).” Are you with me here in that stable, watching this new mother as she is forced to place the king of kings into a trough where animals had been fed?

As shameful as all of this sounds, this was God’s plan, to send His Son into the world in a manner that no one could reject Him. The world was surprised then! And you know what? They will be surprised when He comes again. You and I must be busy sharing this message of hope to a world that has little or no hope. Just my thoughts …

How Do I KNOW God Loves Me?

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” 1 John 4.9

It is not uncommon to hear believers and unbelievers alike ask the question, “How do I know God loves me?” It may stem from a moment of frustration in life or it may be the result of a lifetime of disappointment and despair that seems unexplainable.

When John wrote his epistle of 1 John, he was dealing with a culture that was plagued with Docetism (the doctrine, important in Gnosticism, that Christ’s body was not human but either a phantasm or of real but celestial substance, and that therefore his sufferings were only apparent.) So when Jesus Christ came into this world as he did, as a baby in a manger, immediately God took on human form and flesh. Man could see Him, touch Him, speak with Him, and yes, ultimately execute Him (as a part of God’s plan).

John was saying, You want to know IF God loves you and HOW God loves you, here it is: “In this (the coming of Christ to earth in human form) was manifested the love of God toward us … ” The purpose for which He came, the ONLY purpose, was this: “God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.” How is it that we LIVE through Him? His blood paid the price for our sin, and He rose from the grave that third day, victorious over death, hell, and the grave. “” 1 Corinthians15.55-57: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I don’t have to fear death anymore. You don’t have to fear death anymore. God will meet us at the entrance of the valley of the shadow of death, and He will take us THROUGH it and we will emerge on the other side victorious over death. Everyone on the other side of the valley of death who is escorted by God is alive! Praise His Holy Name! Why did Jesus come? So that “we might live through him.” Just my thoughts …