Monthly Archives: May 2019

Second Chance: Ephesians 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

Ephesians 2:4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. [NLT]

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Ephesians 2 reminded me of The Four Spiritual Laws written by the founder of Campus Crusade, William [Bill] Bright.  They are God-inspired simple truths that mesh with Paul’s truth about how renewal begins.

§ Ephesians 2:4 “But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much…”

1. God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life (John 3:16; 10:10).

Renewal begins with realizing the laser focus of God’s love is…you!  That’s the basis of the plan He has for your life.  

§ Ephesians 2:5 …”that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)”

2. Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life (Rom. 3:23; 6:23).

Sin is like a dark tunnel but God’s grace opens our eyes to the light at the end of our separation from Him with the promise of new life and renewal.

§ Ephesians 2:6 “For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.”

3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life (Rom. 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3 – 6; John 14:6).

The reality of your renewal and honoring God is your relationship to Jesus…period!   New Life is your blessing but there’s an even greater purpose –

4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives (John 1:12; 3:1 – 8; Eph. 2:8 – 9; Rev. 3:20). 

§ Ephesians 2:7 “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.”

Second Chance: Galatians 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

Galatians 2:9 and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised; 10 only they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do. 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”…20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose. [RSV]

¶ Galatians 2:20 was the very first time I purposely wrote about what these particular Words of God meant to me.  It is the verse of my life’s renewal that has proved it’s value over many years now.  I revisit that verse periodically [See blog posts Gene Therapy posted on November 8, 2015 and Assurance posted on January 10, 2018].  It has been an enduring part of my life of faith. 

Today I read this quote from an article by Richard Foster on renovare.org: “Christ-likeness is not merely the work of the individual; rather, it grows out of the matrix of a loving fellowship.”  

Matrix: a mass of fine-grained rock in which gems, crystals, or fossils are embedded.

I felt like I knew the meaning of the word matrix but when I looked it up it was that secondary definition that helped me find the “new” in renewal from this familiar Scripture.  Paul makes a simple switch from using the name “Peter” in the first part of the chapter to using Cephas in the rest.  I wonder if the use of both those names for the same Apostle was Paul’s simple way of reminding Peter of the purpose of his renewal.  It certainly has become a reminder for me. 

God’s renewal in the life of his disciples is to purposely move us from law to love.  Love is what changes renewal into sacramental faith.   It’s worth remembering sacramental faith is how the matrix of gems, crystals and even fossils [that’s us] become the “rock” God uses to build his church.  

Second Chance: II Corinthians 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God.

¶ Being a “captive in Christ’s triumphal procession” is a picture that includes the main themes of renewal: punishment, forgiveness and comfort. The “captive” idea is familiar to me.  I have been guilty, forgiven and comforted.  I am included in that triumphal procession because of that.

That’s a different image than one might expect at first glance.  Inclusion is not an indicator of status but an indicator of punishment deferred.  Christ has eliminated the contrast between himself and the captive.  He has included himself all aspects of captivity; the punishment, the forgiveness, the comfort and thanks be to God, the triumph.

I read Paul’s phrase “we do not peddle the word of God for profit” and was reminded that my words are the words of a captive.  I do not “pedal” my words FOR Jesus but BEFORE him and before you other “captives in Christ’s triumphal procession.”  Thanks be to God!

Second Chance: I Corinthians 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

NIV…2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling.  4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power…7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began…10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 

¶ Who would ever imagine the “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” might be Paul’s testimony “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”  God has taught this teacher, who dedicated so much of his life to knowing and obeying the law, a powerful truth about human nature: words can be used to target changing the listener’s convictions instead of their hearts.   Human nature is still about the law and “wise and persuasive” words can still become an easy substitute for the reality of renewal.  Paul chose to avoid those persuasive words “so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 

¶ Here’s the big word for the day – litigious: unreasonably prone to go to law to settle disputes.  

¶ I’ve recently become sensitized to how important Paul’s words are to life today.   The airways are filled with persuasive hot-button words about laws, politics and current events.   It’s important to remember those words have power designed to influence convictions and distract but it’s only the “demonstration of the Spirit’s power” that changes hearts.  We are not renewed by the words we hear or even by our deeply-held convictions.  We are renewed by our relationship to Jesus “so that [our] faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

¶ “These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”

Second Chance: Romans 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

Romans 2 [NIV]
13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous…15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.
18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? 

• What “if you know his will and approve of what is superior BECAUSE you are instructed by the law” written on your heart, not a list of do’s and don’ts.
• What if the “requirements of the law” include internal instruction about judgment and renewal for those who are “righteous in God’s sight?”

• Then the accusation of judgment becomes the instruction of the law within us that bears witness to our conscience and the needs of our heart.
• Then our renewal becomes the evidence within us of God’s own defense of our heart as He directs our thoughts toward His righteousness.

“If you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth.“  God is “bearing witness’ to your thoughts through those requirements of judgement and renewal.  What is written on your heart is His best option for the renewal of your mind and His best defense of your righteousness.  “You, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself?

Second Chance: Acts 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

NIV Acts 2:2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit…

Courage :
• from the prophet Joel  Acts 2:17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people…21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
• from David the king 2:28 “You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”
• from Peter 2:32 “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

A big part of renewal in a life of faith is having the courage to come to grips with the Holy Spirit.  Identifying the Holy Spirit as wind is familiar but I’ve never noticed the word “violent” before [other versions use “mighty.”]  The idea that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit might not be a gentle and virtually invisible interaction at all but the surgical  removal of the sin within us that’s so violent it might even require fire to cauterize the wound.  That’s just my theory.  The truth is the moment the Holy Spirit enters into us the dramatic renewal and  healing within us begins.  ‘God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it.”

Second Chance: John 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

John 2 NIV
• 2:9…and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.

• 2:14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

• 2:23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.

The Wedding was people coming together to celebrate an important event and an important time in an ordinary village.  The very happy circumstances of a village wedding became unique and even more memorable because Jesus stepped in.

The scene at the Temple is also about people coming together to celebrate an important purpose at an important time but this time in a very important place.  Chaos, animals and noise were a different set of circumstances that became unique and even more memorable when Jesus stepped in.

Those two stories couldn’t be any more different in their circumstances but there is a common thread; Jesus stepped in to effect change in the people involved.   Thankfully Jesus doesn’t entrust himself to the polar opposites of human thoughts and behaviors.  He has entrusted himself and his heart, instead, to our need for renewal whatever the circumstances look like.