Devotion - guilt - fresh start

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 2 Corinthians 5:17

New and Improved

Sometimes you see that little stamp on a product via a new marketing campaign to try to sell the product.

Some years back Coca Cola came out with a “new and improved” version of Coke. It went over about as well as a led zeppelin (and not the band!) Coke soon went back to it’s “original version” of this beverage and the new and improved version was shelved-literally!

When it comes to people there is a refreshing and vital change that comes to each of us as Christians through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. That is what the great Apostle Paul is referring to in the passage above. Paul would know.

Paul himself would need to take advantage of God’s gracious “sinner protection program” in which he would pick up a new identity (and a new name!) through faith in Jesus. Saul (his former name) who caused many Christians to go into hiding, because of his relentless persecution of the Christian Church would himself be found by Jesus and granted a “brand new start” by grace.

This is good news for us who have committed the same old, same old sins (cf. Galatians 5:19ff) and thus deserved the same old, same old punishment: Eternal condemnation in hell!!! Now, because we have “passed away with Christ” (cf. Romans 6:8) we will pass over to a new existence-to live with Jesus forever in glory. What a glorious and welcome change!

Because we are “new” through the renewing and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the healthy changes that are needed in our lives are limitless. In fact, we have access to a “host” of spiritual gifts that the Spirit of God works in us: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22ff)

New and improved (made perfect even!)-through faith in Christ. Now that is a refreshing change!

Prayer

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for all that you have done for me-so that, through faith in you, I could have a fresh start. Help me daily to live for you by dying to sin until that day that I pass away/pass over-to live with you forever in glory. In your name I humbly and thankfully pray.Amen.

Spanish version: En Español

acceptance

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10

It’s called “Radical Acceptance”-and it’s encouraged when you simply have to acknowledge that “it (my present situation) is what it is” and that you are powerless to do anything about it.

The Apostle Paul had finally come to a place of needing to radically accept that there was nothing he could do about the “it” that had been plaguing him and that he had been desperately trying free himself from in his life. He had done the right thing: going to the LORD to ask for liberation from “it.”

Isn’t it interesting that we don’t really knew what “it” was that Paul was so mightily struggling with? Do you suppose that our gracious God through this silence is inviting us to insert our own malady into the equation-if only to console ourselves in the fact that we are not alone in our sufferings and struggles?

We too can come to a place of “sweet surrender” (acceptance) in trusting that our gracious God sometimes permits us to continue to bear a “heavy cross” for our ultimate benefit and blessing. And while we may never understand “why” in this world, we can still trust that His plan will always work out for our eternal good (cf. Romans 8:28)

Just consider the thrice prayed request of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane that went unanswered (at least in the way he had hoped it would be answered). He had pleaded with His Father three times for Him to remove the dreadful cup of suffering he was about to drink (cf. Matt. 26:39-44) Aren’t you happy that God in essence said “no” to removing His son’s bitter suffering-so that we would not have to face separation from Him for all eternity?

“You can let it make you bitter or you can let it make you better”. You have probably heard at least a version of this old saying. With God’s help we can learn to radically accept the will of God as we put our trust in Him to use even bad to serve as a blessing for his children in time and for eternity.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, thank you for your willingness in accepting your Father’s will for you-so that I might be set free from the damning load of sin I had placed on myself. Help me now to “radically accept” through faith whatever your plan is for my life and to trust you to use it in a powerful way for my good and for your glory. It’s in your name that I ask it as a I trust I am being heard because of your perfect access to the Father. Amen.

Spanish version: En Español

Trust - In Him All Things

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 1 Colossians 1:17

Ever had someone try to encourage you by saying, “Hang in there!”? They no doubt meant well. But if you stop and think about it, that is not very good advice to offer someone, especially if they are going through struggles in this life!

The implication behind the phrase is that I have to do something to hold everything together for myself. How exhausting that would be! Imagine trying to hold all the molecules in your body together, trying to hold yourself down to the ground so you don’t fly off of planet earth. Yikes! Is it not the same when it comes to holding together a troubled marriage or failing health or mental illness?

Thankfully, as Christians, we have come to know that Someone else is holding everything together-including us and including everything in our lives! That someone is Jesus.

As the Apostle Paul reminds us (paraphrased), He was here before anything existed. In fact, we know he took part in our Triune God’s amazing work of creating our universe and everything in it. Another Apostle named John, points out, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that had been made.” (John 1:3)

Jesus actively participated in creating our world. He was even part of creating gravity! That is impressive-especially when we consider that we are rotating (with respect to our planet’s center) at approximately 1,000 miles per hour (at the equator) even while we are revolving around the sun at 67,000 miles per hour! (Are you dizzy yet?)

In addition, our solar system whirls around the center of our galaxy at 490,000 miles per hour! Without gravity, we would go flying off of planet earth. And, without God intervening into human history, (because of our sinfulness), we would be flying off to hell!

And so, the One who “co-created” gravity-would come under his own law of gravity (and God’s moral law too!) He took up temporary residence here on planet earth-to fix the problem created by our many failings to keep God’s law. In his letter to the believers in Galatia (4:4) Paul reminds us… “…God sent his son…born of a woman, born under law-to redeem those under law that we might receive the full rights of sons.”

How does our God “hold us together” when it comes to the terrifying things that happen to us while in this life? He gives us faith in Jesus. We become grounded-through faith in a God Who loves us and a Savior Who came into our world to make us right with God. Jesus is such a “stabilizing force” in our lives! We recall what he tells us, “no one can snatch them (his sheep) out of his hand. (cf. John 10:28)

So why not let go? Let go of your fears and worries. Let go of your troubles and cares. As the saying goes: “Let go/Let God”. Your Savior would “hang in there” for you-literally… while hanging on a cross to pay for your every sin! We have a BIG God Who saved us in a BIG way because of His BIG love for us in Christ. Don’t “hang in there”. Let go!

Prayer

Thank you, Jesus-for “hanging in there” while hanging on a cross. You could have come down from that cross. Instead you endured the wrath of God so that I could come under his favor and blessing. Be with me today and every day. Keep me from anxiety and fill my heart with your peace. It’s in your holy name I ask this-knowing you alone give me access to God. Amen.

Spanish version: En Español

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

“This is going to sting, but it will ultimately make you better.” I hate getting shots. But sometimes getting a shot is “just what the doctor ordered”. A tetanus shot, for example, is way better than the alternative-getting tetanus (otherwise known as lock-jaw)!

Our great physician of the soul, Jesus, explains to us that living as Christians in this world is “going to sting”. You can expect that being a follower of Jesus is going to bring trouble for you, not entirely unlike how he experienced trouble in this world. After all, “a disciple is not above his teacher” (cf. Luke 6:40)

In a strange sort of way, we can join another “crazy apostle” (named Peter) who could actually rejoice in his sufferings and even find something beneficial in enduring trouble: “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the genuineness of your faith-of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire-may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (I Peter 1:6-7)

So, suffering for being a follower of Christ only serves to validate that you belong to him? Exactly. And trouble can be used by God to refine us in our faith and make us more eager to leave this world? It certainly can and often does.

It’s a little like how eagles operate with their offspring: Eagles are known to put all kinds of sharp items (like thorns and sharp rocks) in the bottom of their nests. Then they cover all these nasty things up with soft downy feathers so that when the little eaglets hatch they are very comfortable…at first. But, as the little eagles grow and get closer to the time they will need to fly off and live on their own, the mother will pull feathers away-making it less and less comfortable to stay in the nest.

In II Corinthians 4:17 the great Apostle Paul writes, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Notice his “eternal perspective” on trouble. Trouble is “light and momentary” especially in relation to the “heavy and permanent” punishment we have earned for ourselves by sinning against God!

Jesus, our Savior, experienced trouble because of all the “trouble making” we had done in breaking God’s law. And His suffering was far from “light” as He bore the sins of the whole world on his sinless shoulders while suffering hell on the cross.

Relax, this is only going to sting for a little while!

Prayer

Thank you, LORD Jesus Christ-for the unimaginable suffering you willingly endured as my sin bearing substitute. When it comes time for me to depart from this place, make me ready and willing to gladly “fly off”-to be with you forever in heaven. In the meantime, help me to keep a proper perspective on trouble and to endure it patiently and without complaining as I eagerly await your certain return. Amen.

Spanish version: En Español

self esteem

The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” Judges 6:11-16

Have you ever heard of “self-actualization”? Self-actualization is all about finding out what your potential is and realizing that potential by being/becoming “all you can be.” According to Abraham Maslow it is the highest level of psychological development…when basic physical and psychological needs have been met.

In the situation with Gideon we might describe what could be called “God-actualization”. Gideon sees himself as an “insignificant nobody who isn’t going to amount to anything”. He feels completely helpless and hopeless for help from the LORD Who from his perspective, has abandoned his people.

That’s not what God sees! God sees him as a “mighty warrior” whom He will be using to rescue His people from the hands of the enemies (the Midianites). Notice what he is told, “Go in the strength you have…” (vs. 14) The LORD Who had made him knows he has the strength to “pull off” what will be an amazing feat-defeating the massive Midianite army with only 300 men!

The world invites you and me to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps”-through self-actualization. As Christians we have come to understand through the Gospel that it really is about “God-actualization”. What God has done by actually becoming a man in order to do what we could never do on our own is ultimately what saves us.

God raised up another even greater Hero Who would be judged and condemned and seemingly defeated by the enemy in a “sneak attack” on death itself. After standing under God’s righteous judgment and being punished in our place Jesus would stand triumphant as a conquering hero over the grave. We will come to fully realize this when we die and join our God forever in heaven.

Our great and gracious God Who saved us continues to work through us now and to bless us with gifts and abilities which we can actually use to serve Him and others He has placed into our lives. Go with confidence-the LORD is with you, mighty warrior!

Prayer

Lord, I know you have a plan for my life. Help me to be patient as I come to realize your plan and the direction you would have me take. Bless me to follow your will with trust and faith which You provide through your Word. In Jesus’ saving name I pray this. Amen.