√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken
It did occur to me I could read through all the second chapters of the New Testament but it wasn’t until the first few inspirational thoughts this morning that “what’s next” became “why not? If those “Firsts” during Lent and Easter were God’s theme to direct my thoughts toward the goal of Easter – renewal – then maybe these second chapters are God’s Second Chance to explore the mystery of how renewal happens. You already know this story so here’s the cliff notes from Matthew 2.
Matthew 2:1 Jesus was born in Bethlehem…Magi from the east came…2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”…3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed…8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him”…11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him…12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route…16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
We’ve come from the victory of Easter Sunday only to be reminded of the reality of a worn out, run-down and broken world…then. The magi were powerful men who dedicated themselves to search for the King of the Jews: God’s provision that would renew the heart of a whole nation and ensure it’s survival. Their desire was to become part of that renewal and worship “that” King. Herod was a powerful king who’s only desire for renewal was to make certain of his own survival as king of the status quo. Fast forward from that star and the dreams that guided them to the worn out, run-down and broken world…now.
There is a definite relationship between desire and survival that can misdirect our continuing need for renewal. Renewal is the lifelong challenge of being dedicated to developing the ability to judge desires and circumstances of our world in accordance with God’s will [discernment]. Discernment is our guide today and it’s God’s provision that will renew the heart of a whole nation and ensure it’s survival.
Psalm 51:10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
The Firsts are done. The Easter celebration is over. What’s next? Now comes the hard part; continuing the renewal we just celebrated. Renewal will take you beyond what you already know to the recognition of all you still need to know to sustain you. This prayer is both our plea and our evidence of renewal happening in our life. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me…Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.”
Christ is Risen! Lent has reached it’s apex. Thanks to Pastor Carl Franzon for sharing this meaningiful writing from Br. Curtis Almquist, SSJE. It’s the ultimate revelation of the truth of Easter. We have a Savior who will not remain buried even by the whims of our humanity and the reality of a broken world.
“Wherever we bury Jesus, he comes back to life. We can bury him in the Bible or in stained glass windows. We can bury him in creeds and formulas and the heritage of our own tradition. We can bury him in movies and plays and music. We can bury him in our past. We can even bury him in bread and wine. And each time from each place he rises from the dead. He sheds the words and images and walks right on out into the world.”
Matthew 28:6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. [NIV]
Revelation 1:1 This is the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show his servants what must soon happen. And Jesus sent his angel to show it to his servant John, 2 who has told everything he has seen. It is the word of God; it is the message from Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of God’s message, and blessed are the people who hear this message and do what is written in it. The time is near when all of this will happen. [NCV]
I began The Firsts on January 6, 2019 with a big idea from Matthew’s genealogy list. That list was God’s reminder of lives that were sometimes divine and sometimes way too human but they were part of His Story. For that reason that list has become part of my own revelation. The Firsts have all confirmed God works His Story THROUGH people…not BECAUSE of them.
God’s genealogy is still a reminder of faithful and imperfect lives and now it includes their descendants too. That’s us, and we fit right into my description of that list, sometimes divine and sometimes way too human. Revelation confirms God is still determined to make plain the consequences of what man in his own spirit is willing to ignore at the same time His Word is revealing the reality of the power his Son has to change lives and here’s the big truth of Revelation; Jesus wins!
The last of The Firsts – Revelation 1 has coincided with Easter Week. I’m grateful for that because the one part of the many mysteries of John’s prophecy I understand with some clarity is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” has happened in me. The miracle of His Story is that God continues “to show His servants what must soon happen” THROUGH His sovereignty, not because he’s had to work around the faithful but imperfect people in His genealogy. “Blessed are the people who hear this message and do what is written in it.”
“Jude 1: 3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” [NIV]
We walked into the arms of a Savior who promised grace and mercy if we would repent…and we did. We are “those who have been called…to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” The accountability of our faith is what we’re being challenged to fight/contend for.
Faith opened our eyes. We recognized we couldn’t live without God’s guidance [at least in some areas]. Then we found ourselves with nagging thoughts that were undeniable evidence we ARE still living like we can do it on our own [at least in some areas]. We are victims of one last flaw, we’re still human. It’s easier to contend for the doctrine we can easily identify than it is to deal with the reality that repentance is still a work in progress. Complete repentance is the internal struggle we “contend” for on behalf of the faith “that was once for all entrusted” to us.
This is our plan of action…
“Jude 1:20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. 22 Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”
This is God’s plan of action…
“Jude 1:24 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
NIV 3 John 1:5 Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you. 6 They have told the church about your love. Please send them on their way in a manner that honors God. 7 It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such people so that we may work together for the truth.
I certainly have wondered how the Kingdom of God can be populated by such a variety of people, even in my own church. I’ve had the good fortune to be a part of several doctrinally different denominations over the years but they each shared one life-changing reality: committing your heart and mind to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus trumps everything else. Our differences can make us seem like strangers to each other but we do have a powerful common bond.
“Showing hospitality to others—particularly strangers—requires a level of trust and acceptance that is not necessarily required of us in our everyday lives. It forces us to rely on a common bond in Jesus Christ, rather than a particular blood relationship or shared experience. It forces us out of our comfort zones and into a territory where we must place our trust in God.” Chuck Swindoll
Doctrine should certainly become a cherished part of our personal faith but not necessarily our requirement for anyone else. We are both bonded and constrained by our commitment to honor God and build our relationships on the uncommon power of the love of Jesus to unite even a variety of faithful doctrinal strangers.
2 John1:3 Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love…6 And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
John doesn’t say “grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son” are his prayer, or his hope for us. He says they “WILL BE with us IN truth and love.”
This is a challenging time for me. I struggle with agitation. irritation and embarrassment about situations and people that have intruded into my world view to pull my focus away from the truth I know and disturbed my own grace, mercy and peace. I hate this harsh reality in which I have to continually spend time questioning what is truth and then figure out how to walk in obedience to the one command I really need to practice: to “walk in obedience to his [Jesus’] commands.
It feels like a war right now with these warning signs:
Who is controlling the things that direct my focus?
Who values control more than grace?
Who values influence more than mercy?
Who values power more than peace?
Who celebrates when I’m agitated. irritated and embarrassed at the world around me?
The answer to any of my questions is ugly but John’s assurance is real and “will be with us in truth and love…Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son.”
NLT 1 John 1:1 We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We are writing these things so that you may fully share our joy.
The testimony of others has helped me discover I have something worth saying too. It’s both motivating to know the value of testimony in my own life and terrifying to try to figure out how, and why, to share it with others. Self-protection skews my motivation into the need to be a poster child for Jesus. I know far more than I am able to live out so I hesitate to speak but John has given us a very simple plan of what to proclaim and why.
Read the cliff notes:
We have heard and seen with our own eyes and hands this one who is life itself. We testify and proclaim he was revealed to us so that you may have fellowship with us, with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ so that you may fully share our joy.