Ready for New Things?

I don’t know about you, but the events of late really point out to me that we need to be doing something different in this world.  It’s not OK that we’re killing others as violently and frequently as we are, nor is it OK for the violence to be all we talk about or see in the news.  So all of these events have me thinking about changes that need to happen in the world, as well as the changes that we go through in our lives and maybe are going through right now.  The Bible does talk about things becoming new and the importance of new things, so today I want to take a look at some of those verses.

“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!””  Revelation 21:5a

“You have heard my predictions and seen them fulfilled, but you refuse to admit it.  Now I will tell you new things, secrets you have not yet heard. They are brand new, not things from the past.”  Isaiah 48:6-7a

These verses are really important because they are clear in that God sometimes thinks that what needs to happen are new things.  Sometimes things have to change, they can’t stay the same, and even more than that, God makes plans to change things.  We as a people have always been about improving things and making things better, so if we’re all about that, wouldn’t God be too?  If you look at the New Testament stories including those about Peter and the sheet of animals in Acts 10, as well as countless stories of Jesus turning old religious beliefs and traditions on their heads, it’s pretty clear that God is interested in making things new and isn’t willing to be stuck in the old or past if it’s not what’s best or what’s right.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”  2 Corinthians 5:17

But not only is God interested in changing things, He’s interested in changing people.  When someone chooses to accept Jesus as their Lord they’re supposed to make changes in their life that include leaving hurtful practices and relationships behind, and moving into those that are in line with God’s commands and the calling He places on our lives.  Since we’re still sinners we won’t get it perfectly right, but we’re still called to do better every minute of every day and try to better follow the example Jesus gives us.

Are you going through a transition in your life right now or are you able to be of support to others who are going through transitions?  If you can, be a word of hope to all you meet,  especially those going through transitions.

Do You Believe in Love?

There are a lot of topics that go together with love. Last Monday we talked about forgiveness and today I want to talk about one that is the very core of love: belief. There is no love without belief. Love isn’t tangible so you can’t touch it, you can’t measure or count it in any scientific way, and if you don’t believe you’re in love or that someone loves you, can love exist? If you don’t believe in love you won’t be open to receiving it, won’t accept the power it can have in your life, won’t see it in the world around you every day and can’t share it with anyone.

As people of faith we’re called to share about our belief in God with those we come in contact with. Sometimes we use words to share our belief, and other times we use our actions and don’t verbally attribute it to our faith to those around. Love is the same way: it has to be shared, it’s not designed to be kept to yourself. Maybe you remember as a kid having a crush on a boy or girl in your class. As hard as you tried to keep it a secret pretty soon at least a couple people knew because you kept looking at your crush or doing other things that made it obvious. Love isn’t a solitary thing, it’s meant to be shared so it can grow.  Love thrives in the company of others.

But before love can be shared, the totality of what it is and what it could be has to be believed in. No, you don’t have to believe that everyone should have 70 year marriages or even that you could have that kind of love relationship that everyone remembers. But you do have to believe that love exists, that you’re worthy of love, that others are worthy of love, and that when we love together it can thrive in ways that it never would when we’re alone. Do you believe in love?

“I believed in God, so I spoke.”  2 Corinthians 4:13

From Fear to Freedom

What if there was one thing that you could do that would make all the difference in the world?  Like you knew the winning lottery numbers, or knew the career that would guarantee you success, or the person to be in a relationship that would be fantastic forever, or the thing to say to your kids to keep them on the straight and narrow?   This month we’ve talked about a lot of things with regards to fear and the challenges it brings to our lives as well as the blessing in a different kind of fear, Fearing God.  And while I probably don’t have answers to the one thing that you think will make your life great in that list, I do have the answer to your fears: take it one step at a time.

With the exception of the Resurrection Jesus really did things step by step during His time on earth.  He walked among people just like you and me, He built relationships, told stories, got involved in people’s concerns and their joys, and each day was one step closer to the big moment of His death and Resurrection.  Yes, He could have just come to earth and proclaimed that we were all free because He said so, but instead He chose to take the time to get to know us and let us get to know Him and then show us how much we matter(ed) to Him.

On this blog we spend a month on each topic (this month is fear), and some topics we cover over the whole year (this year is about freedom) because we don’t usually learn things instantly, instead we have to be exposed to them over and over again.  God doesn’t expect us to conquer our fears by ripping off the proverbial band-aid, but knows that typically we’ll work through our fears a little at a time.  The goal with each step is to move out of fear and into the powerful, competent, amazing person that God has created us to be.  Which way are you moving in your life?

“We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings more and more glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Encourage One Another

We all have insecurities.  We’ve been lied to, cheated on, exposed to false advertising and people we’ve trusted have broken that trust.  Sometimes it seems like the world is out to get us, and it even laughs when we fall down under the weight of our struggles.  Sometimes people’s questioning “you really love me?” “you really think I’m beautiful?” “you really want me to have the job?” isn’t because we have bad hearing or because we’re so full of ourselves, it’s because we’ve been hurt so many times before. Sure that’s true some of the time, but all too often people just don’t realize the truth.

Jesus dealt with insecure people during his years of ministry.  People questioned if he really could heal them, or really understood what they were going through.  And Jesus certainly did his share of miracles so that they would realize he could.  Jesus knew that people have been hurt so many times in the past and were promised things that didn’t happen that it was hard to believe that there was someone else who was saying these things but really actually could follow through.

The first thing to realize is that we’re all insecure.  We all need to hear the confirmation from others around us that we did good, or we are going to be OK, or that we matter.  No one wants to be forgotten or ignored, no matter how much they like peace and quiet.  But we do a really good job of cutting people down when we say that their clothes are not the best when they actually look fine, that they screwed up in ways that can’t be fixed when they can, or that they deserve the beating they got even though they don’t.

Let’s face it: we can be nasty with too little effort.  But that’s not what God wants of us.  He wants us working together to make the world a better place when we leave than when we got here.  He wants us encouraging one another and taking the time to tell each other that we matter, not that we’re dirt.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I close my letter with these last words: Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace.”  2 Corinthians 13:11a

People of Patience

We’ve made it to another month, the month of June.  I’m excited to see what this month brings forth and the opportunities we’re blessed with.  This month’s topic is patience, which already promises to challenge me, and hopefully you as well, so let’s dive in.

Patience is an absolutely essential topic for Christians to face.  Why? Because of the promise of challenges, hardships and sin.  I’m not really sure if it’s possible in today’s connected world to live without being affected or knowing the realities of the bad stuff that goes on around us, but I suppose if you were able to truly remove yourself from everything it might be possible, but it wouldn’t be in accordance with who God has called us to be. So since we can’t escape them, the choice is to face them or live an insincere life.

God has created us to be people of interaction; people who care for each other and the world in which they live. If you’re not with other people you’re missing an absolutely core factor of who you were created to be and your life purpose.  Let me state it clearly: part of your purpose is to be with others.  I know, sounds hard knowing all you do about the world around you, right?  Yea, it challenges me too.

Which is one really good reason to learn patience.  If we can’t be patient with those in our lives we can’t spread the good news about God or help them find the peace that passes all understanding.  We also can’t be patient with God when He seems to delay in responding to us.  So rather than seeking to distance ourselves, instead we should work on learning patience.

“Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses….in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love…” 2 Corinthians 6:4-6

New Life in Christ

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

I can remember being a young Christian and being amazed at how fresh and exciting everything seemed to be.  I may have been a bit blind to the wrong doings in the world then, but even still if I stop and take a good look around me I can strip off the layer that is put on everything by the world and see that new potential that is only found in a relationship with God.

But beyond this each of us has past lives.  We’ve all done things that we wish we hadn’t in our lifetime.  We’ve all had moments that we’ve not been proud of that (should) put us to shame.  If we can take these moments and learn from them we’ll be able to build a far better future than we could dream of at present.

When we have the opportunity to choose a new life or fresh start however, many of us shy away.  We say ‘it’s too hard’ ‘I’m scared’ ‘I could never do that’ or ‘it won’t work.’  When we choose to take this perspective on things, no, we definitely won’t find success in the new opportunity.

When we talk about having an old life and a new life, the biggest challenge is in letting the past be memories and not huge influences in everything we do.  We can learn from the past, but the past should only shape us to a point.  I encourage you this week to spend time in conversations with God about the new life and exciting plans He has for you.

Abundance, Lack and the Church

This month one of the topics we’ll be considering is abundance.  Today I have 2 verses from 2 Corinthians for us to consider:

“Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need.” 2 Corinthians 8:14

“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” 2 Corinthians 9:8

These verses speak to the seasons we go through as people on Earth.  Sometimes we will experience times of plenty, other times we’ll be in need. During our time on Earth as believers of Christ we aren’t guaranteed a pain-free, joyous experience, rather we’re promised we’ll experience many of the same difficulties those who aren’t followers of Christ will.

However, part of the essence of the church is to care for all it’s members.  Unfortunately there are many churches that are not really caring for their people, thus we have unhappy, and unfulfilled (and unfilled) churches.  Instead people are hiding their true needs and pretending that they’re in plenty all the time.

This is unhealthy and not what God has called us to.  Yes, we should believe that we will be cared for, because God does promise to care for us.  But God doesn’t say that by our own hands we’ll be filled, but rather that God will provide.  It sounds scary, but that provision may be waiting for you within the walls of the church you attend each week but never reveal your needs or weaknesses to.

So what does all this mean?  It means that we need to be generous when we are in seasons of plenty, and be willing to expose our needs to others when the seasons of plenty have dried up.  Yes, it can be scary to admit your need, but once you know you have others you can rely on, and others know they can rely on you, we’ll all be in a better, and healthier place.

This week I encourage you to reach out to someone in need, or admit your need.  It will take some time but together we can all turn the church back into the caring and sharing center it used to be.

Living Letters

“You show that you are a letter from Christ that he sent through us. This letter is not written with ink but with the Spirit of the living God. It is not written on stone tablets but on human hearts.”
2 Corinthians 3:3

Your life is basically a letter of what has happened since you were born.  There are good pages and not so lovely pages.  There are pages with bits of food and drops of water.  There are words and lines scratched out, things that you didn’t want to have revealed or think about.

The good news?

Your letter isn’t signed yet.  And no letter is done until it’s signed.  You’ve got a chance to write a wonderful ending to your letter.

What will you write?

Love Says

This month we’re talking about love.  Love being a complex subject with lots of challenges, it’s easy to get confused or discouraged by the challenges, so here are some encouraging words to brighten your day.

“For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!””  2 Corinthians 1:20a

“I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.  In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling.” Exodus 15:13

“”Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” Psalm 23:6

What inspires and encourages you to love?  I’d love to hear your favorite verses.

The Source of Joy

We’ve arrived at week 2 in our Christmas verse themed Monday blog posts! Today’s verse comes from 2 Corinthians 2:3b:

“Surely you all know that my joy comes from your being joyful.”

2 Corinthians is a great, and deep, book in the New Testament.  So what can this verse teach us about Christmas?  When Jesus came to earth, the angels sang with great joy and spread the joyful news to the shepherds.  Mary (Jesus’ mother) shared her joy in Luke 1.

The whole idea of joy is to share it!  So, our joy should come from others!  We are joyful when others are happy, and others are happy when we are happy.  Sharing joy means being a part of an amazing cycle of love and sharing among men and women around the world.

If you are a parent, think back to past Christmases when your young children opened up gifts they really wanted.  Do you remember that look of excitement and joy? (If you’re not a parent remember back to when you opened gifts that you really wanted.)  As a parent did you feel that joy that your children expressed too?  The great part about Christmas is that it’s easy to spread and feel joy, it’s almost “built-in” to the holiday.

Spreading and sharing joy doesn’t require any money, or physical investments.  It does require that you be you, and that you share some love and Christmas Spirit.  How will you share joy this holiday season? Will you do it with hugs, kind words or something else?  Share your thoughts below.