New Creations

How many times in your life have you “made yourself over”? I have lost count. I have been a blond. I’ve been a brunette. I’ve been 20 pounds heavier and 20 pounds lighter. I’ve been a yankee and a southern girl. I’ve been a student and a teacher. The list goes on. I think it is only human to try to make ourselves over in some image that has captured our attention. The popularity of make-over shows on television supports this theory. Don’t we just love the big reveal, when the work of experts has brought out a new and better version of the person, house, or restaurant?

God is in the make-over business. In fact, he has been trying to make-over humanity for thousands of years. The trouble is that God’s standard for beauty is so much different than ours. We look at superficial things like weight and appearance, while God only concerns himself with the heart.

2 Corinthians 5 (Common English Bible)

16 So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

You are a new creation in Christ! That statement brings all the hope and promise of a changed life, a changed attitude, and a changed heart. God desires us to be clean and whole through the application of the shed blood of the atonement. You can apply all the eyeliner and lipstick you want, but you will never achieve the change that giving your life to Jesus brings.

1All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 19 In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.

Our transformation comes through our reconciliation to God through the cross. We are made one with the One who dismisses our sins and makes us become something new. There is no better “look” than that!

20 So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!” 21 God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God.

When you undergo a physical change, people notice and comment. What would it take for them to notice a spiritual change in you as well? Christ offers to change your inward appearance so that your outward appearance … notably your actions and deeds … match up with the new you. So don’t just go and tell. Go, and show.

Reflections of God by Wende Pritchard

Folding Up Tents

I grew up in a camping family. In fact, the first time I stayed in a hotel wasn’t until I was 17 years old and on a band trip. We started in a tent, moved to a tent trailer, and finally graduated to a comfy travel trailer in my parents’ later years. In the fifth chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul writes about tents in a wonderful way:

2 Corinthians 5 (Contemporary English Version)

5 Our bodies are like tents that we live in here on earth. But when these tents are destroyed, we know that God will give each of us a place to live. These homes will not be buildings that someone has made, but they are in heaven and will last forever. 2 While we are here on earth, we sigh because we want to live in that heavenly home. 4 These tents we now live in are like a heavy burden, and we groan. But we don’t do this just because we want to leave these bodies that will die. It is because we want to change them for bodies that will never die. 5 God is the one who makes all of this possible. He has given us his Spirit to make us certain that he will do it..

I love the image of tents in this passage.  My family traveled all up and down the East Coast to campgrounds located near interesting, educational and often historical locations.  My first camping adventure was when I was 6 weeks old and my parents took my sister and me to the beautiful mountains of Central PA where we camped for two weeks in a faded green tent.  Every summer we would return to the Greenwood State Furnace and camp with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We all spent many happy moments in this temporary home. But then we would come back to our real home again, and the tent would be put away until next summer.

Last week I said goodbye to a very dear friend whose ”tent” had been taken down and folded away. He was an outstanding human being in every sense of the word, and his death leaves a void on the earth. But our faith in God assures us that we will see him again, and this brings us comfort. For all of our dearly departed, whose tents fell into disrepair and were taken down, we can rejoice in knowing that God has replaced their temporary dwellings with a permanent home in heaven. We indeed live by faith and not by sight.

For all believers, death is the beginning of life.  That is what we believe.  Our Lord has taught us that our finish here is but our beginning there.  It means we will have a new and glorious life in the Father’s home. Paul concludes with this reminder:

6 So always be cheerful! As long as we are in these bodies, we are away from the Lord. 7 But we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We should be cheerful, because we would rather leave these bodies and be at home with the Lord.

It is hard to be cheerful in the face of loss, but we can be cheerful in the face of gain. We will all gain a place in our Father’s house … Jesus assures us that there are many rooms there, one for each of us.

John 14 selections (New Living Translation)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”  “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

This last part may be the most important thing you will hear today:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

The world, and all of it’s temporary things, will never give us peace. Only Jesus, with his heavenly mansion of many rooms, can bring us real and everlasting peace. So do not let your hearts be troubled! You can trust this, even to the end of your life.

A Sign From Heaven

Stay at Your Post

A few days ago I read an exchange on FaceBook between a pastor and a lay person. The post celebrated the ministry of a long-running Camp Meeting that has brought souls to Christ for decades. The lay person asked, “Do progressives go to Camp Meetings?”

I can’t ascertain the reason behind this question, but it broke my heart. The practice by many of dividing our flock into two labeled camps is a hurtful witness to the world. When the world sees us so divided, they have no reason to seek out Christ through what we do.

Paul was keenly aware of this. He called his church at Corinth to drop their differences in order to enter into God’s work. God calls us to be RECONCILERS. As we proclaim the good news of God’s reconciling work on the cross, where the sinful world was reconciled to the Father through the shed blood of the atonement, we must be reconciled with one another or our witness is diminished.

I believe Paul speaks directly to the church today as well.

2 Corinthians 5

20 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.

1-10 Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don’t squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us,

I heard your call in the nick of time;
The day you needed me, I was there to help.

Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don’t put it off; don’t frustrate God’s work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we’re doing. Our work as God’s servants gets validated—or not—in the details.

Church, now is the time to listen. We dare not squander ONE BIT of this marvelous life God has given us. When we publicly squabble within our Body, we put a question mark over everything we’re doing.

Our work indeed gets validated (or not) in the details. If what you are saying, doing, posting, and proclaiming brings harm to the Body, keep it to yourself.

 People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly …in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we’re beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we’re telling the truth, and when God’s showing his power; when we’re doing our best setting things right; when we’re praised, and when we’re blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.

We have the world to win for Christ. But first we have to enter into God’s work of making things right between ourselves. Stay at your post…people are watching.

God’s Light by Michelle Robertson