Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ambassadors in Christ

Toward a New Creation
Life on God's Terms

Death Becomes Life

2 Corinthians 5:17-21  The Message

16-20 Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.
21 How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.

For Reflection
Having been "put square with God," we are called to foster new Godly relationships with each other.  Individually and collectively we demonstrate the righteousness of God.

that you will become intimate friends with God.  Pray that your life will be a living testament to the living God.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Alive in Christ

Toward a New Creation
Life on God's Terms

Death Becomes Life

1 Corinthians 15:51-57  The Message

51-57 But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed. In the resurrection scheme of things, this has to happen: everything perishable taken off the shelves and replaced by the imperishable, this mortal replaced by the immortal. Then the saying will come true:
Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?
It was sin that made death so frightening and law-code guilt that gave sin its leverage, its destructive power. But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!

For Reflection
How we long to know what lies ahead in death.  Is it the end?  Is their nothing after this life?

In a sense, immortality is found in our children.  Immortality is found in the memory of the best and the worst of what we are.  The human story never ends. 

Paul writes that in death we will find a transformed existence.  He suggests that one of the important meanings of the resurrection is that death can no longer threaten us.  Death has no currency.  Fear has lost its power.

Thank God for removing the threat of Sin, Guilt and Death.  Pray to live fearlessly.  Pray to live your life in the hollow of God's hand.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Kept in Christ

Toward a New Creation
Life on God's Terms

Death Becomes Life

John 17:1-19  The Message

Jesus’ Prayer for His Followers

17 1-2 Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said:
Father, it’s time.
Display the bright splendor of your Son
So the Son in turn may show your bright splendor.
You put him in charge of everything human
So he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge.
And this is the real and eternal life:
That they know you,
The one and only true God,
And Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
6 I spelled out your character in detail
To the men and women you gave me.

11 For I’m no longer going to be visible in the world;
They’ll continue in the world
While I return to you.
Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life
That you conferred as a gift through me,
So they can be one heart and mind
13-19 Now I’m returning to you.
I’m saying these things in the world’s hearing
So my people can experience
My joy completed in them.
I gave them your word;
The godless world hated them because of it,
Because they didn’t join the world’s ways,
Just as I didn’t join the world’s ways.
I’m not asking that you take them out of the world
But that you guard them from the Evil One.
They are no more defined by the world
Than I am defined by the world.
Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth;
Your word is consecrating truth.
In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world.
I’m consecrating myself for their sakes
So they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission.

For Reflection
Who is Christ?  Who are we, the disciples of Christ? 

In this prayer, Jesus answers these two very important questions.  Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, is God showing us who God is and how we should live transformed lives so that we may live in this world but not be subject to its vulgarities.  Because of Christ, we, the disciples of Christ, are no longer defined by this world, no longer subject to this world's ways.  We are free to choose to live as God intends us to live by example of Jesus.  We are consecrated with the truth and through our own example, missionaries to the world.

that you will strive to live free from the bonds and seductions of this world.  Pray that you will have the courage and strength to be not only a hearer of God's will, but also a follower of God's Way.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Fufilled in God

Toward a New Creation 
Life on God's Terms 
Not without Hope

Matthew 12:15-21  The Message

In Charge of Everything

15-21 Jesus, knowing they were out to get him, moved on. A lot of people followed him, and he healed them all. He also cautioned them to keep it quiet, following guidelines set down by Isaiah:
Look well at my handpicked servant;
    I love him so much, take such delight in him.
I’ve placed my Spirit on him;
    he’ll decree justice to the nations.
But he won’t yell, won’t raise his voice;
    there’ll be no commotion in the streets.
He won’t walk over anyone’s feelings,
    won’t push you into a corner.
Before you know it, his justice will triumph;
    the mere sound of his name will signal hope, even
    among far-off unbelievers.

For Reflection
Why did Christ not want the stories of his healings broadcast?

It was a matter of humility and self-denial.  Moreover, it was self-preservation.  His time had not yet come and His enemies need not be taunted into action prematurely.  Matthew describes further how humility and self-denial becomes a successful strategy for winning others over to the Kingdom.

that you will have the self control exhibited by Christ. Pray that you will follow Christ's example and grace will overcome corruption and turn humility into trust.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Help in God

Toward a New Creation
Life on God's Terms

Not without Hope

Psalm 42  The Message

A psalm of the sons of Korah

42 1-3 A white-tailed deer drinks
    from the creek;
I want to drink God,
    deep draughts of God.
I’m thirsty for God-alive.
I wonder, “Will I ever make it—
    arrive and drink in God’s presence?”
I’m on a diet of tears—
    tears for breakfast, tears for supper.
All day long
    people knock at my door,
    “Where is this God of yours?”
These are the things I go over and over,
    emptying out the pockets of my life.
I was always at the head of the worshiping crowd,
    right out in front,
Leading them all,
    eager to arrive and worship,
Shouting praises, singing thanksgiving—
    celebrating, all of us, God’s feast!
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God.
6-8 When my soul is in the dumps, I rehearse
    everything I know of you,
From Jordan depths to Hermon heights,
    including Mount Mizar.
Chaos calls to chaos,
    to the tune of whitewater rapids.
Your breaking surf, your thundering breakers
    crash and crush me.
Then God promises to love me all day,
    sing songs all through the night!
    My life is God’s prayer.
9-10 Sometimes I ask God, my rock-solid God,
    “Why did you let me down?
Why am I walking around in tears,
    harassed by enemies?”
They’re out for the kill, these
    tormentors with their obscenities,
Taunting day after day,
    “Where is this God of yours?”
11 Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
    Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God—
    soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
    He’s my God.

For Reflection
Why do we avoid lamentation in our prayers?  I love the images in this poetic passage.  I love the power in the phrases, " I want to drink God, deep draughts of God,  Chaos calls to chaos...(but)... Then God promises to love me... My life is God’s prayer."

When, " Chaos calls to chaos, to the tune of whitewater rapids and  [Life's] breaking surf... [and]...thundering breakers crash and crush [you],"  fix your eyes of God in prayer and when you are on a "diet of tears," God will turn the blues into sunshine.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Restored in God

Toward a New Creation
Life on God's Terms

Not without Hope

Jeremiah 29:10-14  The Message

10-11 This is God’s Word on the subject: “As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
12 “When you call on me, when you come and pray to me, I’ll listen.
13-14 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.
“Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree.
“I’ll turn things around for you. I’ll bring you back from all the countries into which I drove you”—God’s Decree—“bring you home to the place from which I sent you off into exile. You can count on it.

For Reflection
What is the Kingdom of God?  Here, in America, we have rejected a King in favor of a representative democracy.  So, perhaps the idea of a kingdom does not bring up the best image of  human governance, or for that matter, spiritual nirvana. 

Perhaps being a member of a loving household is a better image.  In Christ's time, one's household included all blood family as well as servants, slaves and, even if only temporary, guests.  All were included.  All were loved.  All were treated with kindness. All were treated justly. All were treated with compassion.   All were forgiven of their transgressions. All were welcome to the table.

This is the image I contemplate.  When I think of the Kingdom I think of living in the household of God, life in the hollow of God's hand.

for confidence in God's promise.  Pray often, so that you may hear, so that you may see, so that you might touch as God hears, sees and touches you.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Safe in God

Toward a New Creation
Life on God's Terms

Not without Hope

Isaiah 54:9-17  The Message

9-10 “This exile is just like the days of Noah for me:
    I promised then that the waters of Noah
    would never again flood the earth.
I’m promising now no more anger,
    no more dressing you down.
For even if the mountains walk away
    and the hills fall to pieces,
My love won’t walk away from you,
    my covenant commitment of peace won’t fall apart.”
    The God who has compassion on you says so.
11-17 “Afflicted city, storm-battered, unpitied:
    I’m about to rebuild you with stones of turquoise,
Lay your foundations with sapphires,
    construct your towers with rubies,
Your gates with jewels,
    and all your walls with precious stones.
All your children will have God for their teacher—
    what a mentor for your children!
You’ll be built solid, grounded in righteousness,
    far from any trouble—nothing to fear!
    far from terror—it won’t even come close!
If anyone attacks you,
    don’t for a moment suppose that I sent them,
And if any should attack,
    nothing will come of it.
I create the blacksmith
    who fires up his forge
    and makes a weapon designed to kill.
I also create the destroyer—
    but no weapon that can hurt you has ever been forged.
Any accuser who takes you to court
    will be dismissed as a liar.
This is what God’s servants can expect.
    I’ll see to it that everything works out for the best.”
        God’s Decree

For Reflection
Sometimes we forget God's promise to abide with us.  Especially when trouble enters our lives.  We wonder whether God is still there when we see little sign of the pain of living abating.  We become short-sighted and focus only on the present.

We are made in the likeness of God.  If we suffer then surely God suffers with us.   God is not the cause of pain.  God did not send the torment.  God will see that everything will work out for the best.

for patience.  Pray prayers of lament.  Pray about your disappointments.  Pray that you will survive the current torments.  Pray so that you will know God and that you will be able to see God's hand in yours, comforting, and guiding you into a better tomorrow.