Archive for March, 2011

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

Jesus’ Teaching, Miracles, Crucifixion and Resurrection;
The Church is Formed; and Jewish History from a Religious Viewpoint

This month  during our Resting at the River’s Edge readings we’ll finish the Gospel of Luke, begin the book of Acts and read through 1 Chronicles and part of 2 Chronicles.

I’ve so been enjoying the Gospel of Luke – Jesus’ story written from the perspective of a historian and doctor. We’ll be reading the last half of the book – pages jam packed full of the teachings and miracles of Jesus followed by His crucifixion and resurrection. Don’t simply read through Jesus’ teachings – imagine that you are in the crowd of listeners and ask God to reveal how His message should impact your life.

In the book of Acts we’ll read about how the  Church was formed as the Apostles and disciplines, under the power of the Holy Spirit, preach God’s message with accompanying signs and wonders. Again, I encourage you to put yourself in the scenes – how would you have reacted when Saul wanted to meet with your fellowship shortly after he became Paul? What would your position have been when the topics of circumcising gentiles and eating meat sacrificed to idols were discussed? And what do the Acts of the Apostles – that is, the great miracles they performed – mean for your life today?

The books 1 and 2 Chronicles are among those that record the history of the Jews from the last judge (Samuel) and the establishment of the first king (Saul), to the exile of the nation to Babylon. (The other books are 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings.) 1 and 2 Chronicles provides Jewish history from the perspective of the priesthood. (Last year we read 1 and 2 Kings which were written from the perspective of the prophets.) You might say that Kings provides the political record and Chronicles provides the religious record.

We will see in the books of 1 and 2 Chronicles a God who is faithful to His covenant with Abraham even when Abraham’s descendants are unfaithful to Him. We will also see the cycle of God blessing His people when they obey His will and disciplining them when they disobey. As you read, think about how you would have responded in each situation. Would you have remained faithful to God? How would you have responded to His discipline?

Lots of great Inspired Words to read and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to our hearts. May God bring them alive as you read during the month of April. Blessings, Sandy

The recommended reading schedule for April is below.

To download a PDF of April’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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Here’s a blog on a favorite topic of mine – Living Life On Purpose! It won’t take you but a few minutes to read this woman’s encouragement and practical advice to help you become more than you otherwise would.

I want to be a person who lives intentionally. You might remember a couple of blogs I posted near the end of last year (here and here) about beginning Living Life on Purpose groups. We didn’t have any takers at the time, but if you look at the calendar and recognize with remorse that the first quarter of 2011 is nearly over and you haven’t begun to accomplish any of the things you had hoped to during the past three months – or perhaps haven’t even thought about what you want to accomplish in 2011 – leave a comment here or on Facebook (where many of you read the blogs). Let’s not let the summer overtake us without a plan for growing into the man or woman God wants us to be.

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I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
Philemon 1:6

In my last blog, I expanded on the idea that sharing our faith with nonbelievers helps us to gain a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. What a great motivation for doing so!

As I was finishing the blog, God tickled my brain with another meaning. It sent me to the Greek New Testament dictionary to find out what word was actually used for “sharing.” I was surprised to find the word koinonia. I have never associated that word with the evangelistic sharing of our faith. I was running out of time, so I made a note to get back to it.

While visiting my sister half way across the country, and attending a church with a much different style than my home church, God continued to nurture thoughts about the koinonia of our faith and how it helps us gain a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. I now have the wonderful luxury of three hours of “free time” while I fly home and am doing some research. I’ve looked up all the passages with the word koinonia and read a number of commentary and dictionary entries related to the word. How fun! (Yes, I’m a bit of a word nerd.) Come along on the journey with me. While my trip took about 2 hours, yours should be much quicker!

The word koinonia means a number of things (as most Greek words do). It’s used seventeen times in the New Testament.

  • In only two passages does it mean “communication,” as most interpret it in the passage we’re looking at.
  • In two other passages it’s used in relationship to sharing materially with other believers.
  • All remaining uses of the word are translated “fellowship” or “communion.”

The fellowship or communion of koinonia is a very rich fellowship or intimacy. Ron Sider describes it this way:

For the early Christians, koinonia was not the frilly “fellowship” of church-sponsored, biweekly bowling parties. It was not tea, cookies, and sophisticated small talk in [the] Fellowship Hall after the sermon. It was an almost unconditional sharing of their lives with the other members of Christ’s body.
Ronald J. Sider

Since this is the overwhelmingly more common translation of the word, let’s apply it to our passage and see where it takes us:

I pray that you may be active in [the fellowship of] your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
Philemon 1:6

Or perhaps:

I pray that you may be active in intimately living a life of faith with one another, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
Philemon 1:6

There are many passages that make it clear we are not to live our faith in isolation. This passage goes a step further – it says we cannot gain a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ when we live our faith without koinonia relationships with other believers. Gaining that fuller understanding occurs as we share what God is doing in our lives with others to encourage and teach them, and they share what God is doing in their lives to encourage and teach us. It also occurs as they see us shrinking back from our first love and admonish us to stay faithful.

We Americans don’t like anyone in our business. We like our independence and like to live our lives the way we want to live them. This is the antithesis of the Gospel message and of koinonia. Koinonia requires a sharing of lives that makes independence obsolete.

We especially don’t like it when others are bringing correction to us. I would venture to say that most people quit attending their church because the pastor or another believer has attempted to bring correction into their life. How very sad. God has placed our pastors and fellow believers in our lives to help us gain that full understanding of every good thing He has given us. When we sever those relationships we cut ourselves off from the growth God has for us. That means we haven’t learned what God wanted us to learn, so the likelihood is that we will face the same or similar situation in the next church we attend. If we continue in our independent attitude, we eventually give up on church because it is full of people who want to be a part of our lives when we simply want credit for going to church.

God wants more from us and has more for us. He wants us to have koinonia relationships – intimate fellowship with other believers that allows them to speak words of correction and life into our lives. Without it we’ll never become the men and women God wants us to be.

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I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.
Philemon 1:6

One of the tremendous benefits of sharing our faith in Christ is that it gives us a fuller understanding of every good thing we have in Christ! That says to me that we cannot fully understand or know every good thing we have in Christ unless we share our faith!

This gives me an additional perspective for sharing the Gospel. I am by no means an evangelist, and I often feel like my attempts at sharing my faith are a bit lacking. Yet I am committed to the importance of the challenge – how will they believe unless someone tells them? (Romans 10:14-15) I have always seen the activity as something I do for God and for the other person. But this passage tells me that I also receive benefit from it.

In thinking about this, I can see how it is much like the benefit one receives from teaching. Any teacher will tell you that they learn more when teaching than their students do. Their learning comes first from their preparation and secondly from the students and the questions they ask and insights they provide.

As I study to prepare myself to share the Gospel, I learn more about all that God has done for us. As I share it, I am blessed simply because I have been obedient. I may be further blessed by the questions and observations of the one I’m witnessing to. And the greatest blessing of all is when the person responds positively to the Gospel. Whether there is a response or not, however, we can know that we have made an impact for the Gospel, just as we know that we are impacting the future beauty of the flowers in our garden when we water them regularly. We don’t always see an immediate response, but there is a response. We don’t always see a response to our words, but we can be assured that something happens in the spiritual world each time we share the Gospel.

What do you need to do to be better prepared to share the Gospel?

  • Praying is a start. Pray for specific people you would like to share the Gospel with. Pray that God would bring people across your path who need to know Him. Pray for fertile soil – that these people would be prepared to hear and respond to the Gospel. Pray for wisdom, courage, compassion and the right words to say.
  • While you pray, invest a little time in learning methods for sharing the Gospel. You might familiarize yourself with the 4 Spiritual Laws or the Goodness Scale approach to sharing the Gospel.
  • Write out your testimony. Yes, write it out. (OK, you can type it out.) Create a version that you can share in just a minute or two as well as a version you can share in 3-5 minutes.
  • Be able to articulate the reasons you believe. Peter emphasized this when he was writing “to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the lands of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia.” (1 Peter 1:1). As believers in Christ, we are to live as foreigners in the world. Peter’s advice was this:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,
1 Peter 3:15

We’re to always be ready to explain why we place our hope and trust in Jesus.

Who might you need to share the Gospel with this week? I know this is a topic that many Christians want to avoid, but Paul’s letter to Philemon tells us that we won’t fully understanding of every good thing we have in Christ unless we are active in sharing our faith. So for the sake of those who need to hear the Gospel, and for your own sake, pray, study, and then SPEAK UP!

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“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” [Jesus said]
Matthew 13:44

This is one of those passages we often use to teach about how valuable the Kingdom of Heaven is – it’s so wonderful that this man went out and sold all he had so that he could have it. I wonder how often we allow the passage to challenge us. If we have truly found the Kingdom of Heaven – that is, eternal life in Christ, do respond as this man did. There are two phrases in the passage that challenge me:

  • Notice that the passage says “in his joy” he went and sold his possessions so that he could buy the field. Are we joyful in our obedience when it requires sacrifice on our part? If not, perhaps our focus is on the wrong thing – our focus should never be on our sacrifice, but on the wonderful treasure that will be ours – Jesus.

I have been convicted lately about how self-focused my life is at times. Yes, I regularly serve the Lord in a number of ways, but the self-focus comes in when I become aware of the cost of serving – generally, a loss of personal time, energy or finances. Perhaps that’s an indication that I sometimes allow my focus to get fuzzy or even all out of whack. Lord, help me to continue “in joy,” not giving recognition to any loss I might experience along the way.

  • The passage also says that he sold “all he had” to purchase the field. Have I gone all in? (I can guarantee you that I have not.)

As pondered this passage in my mind, I was in an airport waiting for my flight. Not far from me there was a young couple with a little girl. She was perhaps about three years old – at the age where little girls love to walk on their tippy toes, almost bouncing from place to place. Her mom was standing next to several pieces of luggage while giving the little girl a bit of freedom before requiring her to sit quietly in an airplane for several hours. The little girl would get about fifteen feet away and her mom would call to her and tell her to come back. The little girl would obediently turn and bounce back to her mom. It occurred to me that at any second the child could choose to disobey (as children learning about freedom are want to do). I am fully confident that the mother wouldn’t hesitate to leave her belongings for a second to run after her child. I was standing there with my laptop bag between my legs, my arm resting on my purse with half an eye on my cell phone that was laid on the counter next to me charging while reading a book* and pondering this passage. I was ever aware that at any moment my treasured possessions could be pilfered if I wasn’t diligent in the crowded airport. Yet I’m certain this mom would gladly leave all her possessions behind (not even selling them as in the parable) if her most treasured possession began enjoying too much freedom.

In my heart, have I sold all my possessions to pursue the Kingdom of Heaven?  Am I willing to hear God say “give this away?” or “go here?” I want to believe that I am…

How about you? Is Jesus your most treasured possession and do you treat all your other possessions accordingly?

In my previous blog, I wrote about the disciplines practiced by early Christians before their baptism on Easter Sunday. They devoted themselves to prayer, repentance, fasting and giving. I have purposed in my heart to ask God to give me some person or organization to give financially to each week. We’re coming up on week three and God has been already identified where I am to give. It has been a joy to give, but in the back of my mind, I’m becoming aware that week four is coming up…And I’m starting to feel the financial pinch. I am excited about God using me…but it won’t be as easy in the coming weeks as it has been in the first couple of weeks. This is evidence that in my heart, I’m not “all in.”

I’m convinced that if I want to experience more of the Kingdom of Heaven, my heart needs to be predisposed to joyfully sell it all. Clearly Christ is worth the price.

How are you challenged to joyfully sell all you have? Share your story with me, as a comment below or on Facebook. As David Platt says in his book Radical, Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, “For when we abandon the trinkets of this world and respond to the radical invitation of Jesus, we discover the infinite treasure of knowing and experiencing him.”

 

*This blog was inspired by the first chapter of David Platt’s book Radical, Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream, copyright 2010 by author, published by Multinomah Books ebooks, Colorado Springs, CO.

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Yesterday was the first Sunday of Lent, a season that is well known to many Christians and hardly on their radar for others. One of the things I like about it is that it is observed by Christians around the world – when we observe the season, we are joining with the Body of Christ worldwide. I come from a church tradition that barely recognizes Lent so I thought it’d be a great opportunity to do a little research. What I’ve learned is motivating me to set apart this season as a time to pursue God more diligently by returning to the basic disciplines that were the hallmark of early Christians.

Before we look at those disciplines, let’s look at the original purpose for Lent. Understanding what something was meant to do helps us to use it properly. If you’ve never seen a fork before, and I give you one without telling you what its purpose is, you might come up with some unusual things to do with the fork. You might use it as a decorative hair pin, or take two of them and intertwine them to create a structure of some sort. While you can do those things with a fork, what it is best suited for is eating. So first we want to look at the original purpose for Lent.

During the first couple hundred years after Jesus’ time, new believers – people who put their faith and trust in Jesus – were baptized only once a year on Easter Sunday. They spent several weeks before their baptism preparing themselves spiritually for this significant milestone in their obedience to Christ. During this season they would concentrate on four basic practices of the Christian faith. In doing so, they would seek God humbly and lay a strong foundation for living a long life with Christ at the center. They focused on these four practices:

Prayer
Repentance
Fasting
Giving

Let’s look briefly about each of these areas.

Prayer
The Christian life is to be a life of prayer. Paul gave this instruction to the Thessalonians:

17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

I have grown a lot over the past year in the practice of giving thanks, but it’s an area of prayer in which I want to continually improve. The other area of prayer in which I want to improve is listening to God. It’s too easy to rush through my thanks and requests without pausing to enjoy God’s presence and listen for Him instructions, discipline or praise. (With the potential of hearing God’s “atta girl” how can I short-change this time during my prayers?)

During this season of Lent, I want to be more diligent about setting aside time to pursue God in prayer. Will you join me? Let’s agree among one another to make an appointment to meet God in a quiet place and pray each day during lent.

Repentance
This second focus of the new believers in the early church who were preparing to be baptized on Easter morning was a key message of the New Testament. Both John the Baptist and Jesus said repeatedly “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” Repentance is more than feeling sorry for our sin. It means changing our mind about what we did and agreeing with God that it is sin. There’s a big difference between asking God to forgive us of our sins, or even being sorry for our sins, and agreeing with God that what we did was a sin. Repentance requires changing our mind and then our behavior. And for our mind to be changed, we need to approach God humbly, with an attitude of humility, saying “Lord, I want to do your will. Forgive me and change my heart.” And then we need to listen.

So during our prayer times during Lent, let’s approach God humbly and ask Him to teach us His ways.

Fasting
This is perhaps the most common practice people participate in during Lent. “What are you giving up for Lent?” is a question we hear (and perhaps ask). I want to focus on fasting a little differently. First, I want to focus on the purpose of fasting. We are not fasting because it’s the season in which we’re supposed to give something up. It’s easy to fall into that trap. I want to go further and constantly remember that I am fasting to draw closer to God. I want the truth that Jesus spoke about when He said “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” to be a reality in my life. So we humble ourselves through fasting and turn to God to be filled. Fasting reminds us that we are weak (because we so want that thing we’ve given up) and we turn to God for His strength.

During your prayer time in the next couple of days, ask God how He would like you to participate in fasting. It might be that giving up some type of food will come to mind. I’d like to invite you to think about other kinds of fasting. For example, you might fast from television during certain times of the day. Or you might give up some other activity and spend the time in prayer and Bible reading.

Giving
Finally, the Christian life is a life of giving. It is one of the ways we demonstrate our love for Christ. Our God is an incredibly generous God. Most significant, He gave His son so that we could live forever with Him. Being generous doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Most of us have to fight against the urge to hold onto everything we have. But in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said “Give to everyone who asks you.” A few verses later he said “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 6:38)

We don’t give so that we’ll get back, but God in His goodness blesses us.

Phil and I started this without realizing it when we spontaneously gave more than we were required to and more than we had anticipated giving. I’m hoping God reveals an opportunity to be generous each week during Lent. I want to encourage you pray about increasing your giving during this season. Give generously – share what you have with those around you.

Let’s Do It!
That was the emphasis of study for the new believers during the Lent season: prayer, repentance, fasting and giving. Some may wonder why we have to do it every year, even if we’ve been a Christian for most of our lives. The answer to that is simple. We don’t have to, but it is our privilege to do so. Practicing these four basics disciplines of our faith creates and reinforces an attitude of humility and puts us in a position to hear from God. Let me know what He’s saying to you!

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5See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
Deuteronomy 4:5-8

 

We often fall into the trap of thinking that when we follow God’s pattern for living that those around us think we’re a fool. I don’t deny that’s the case sometimes, but God’s Word says that when we observe God’s laws carefully, it will demonstrate our wisdom and understanding to the people around us. And they will marvel that we have a God who is near to us whenever we pray to Him.

 

When we follow’s God’s laws, it reflects positively on us and on our God. How cool is that? Of course, it’s dependent on us living the life God wants us to live. If you haven’t been following our series called “Let’s be PC!” go to the Series menu and check it out. It’s an ongoing series about living the life of a Practicing Christian – in other words, doing the things that God has commanded us to do. When we live a life centered around Him, following the pattern for living that He commands, we will be blessed. That doesn’t mean we won’t experience bad things. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. But God will notice (because He’s always with us) and those around us will notice.

 

Be blessed today to live according to God’s laws!

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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17

God’s already done the heavy lifting to bring newness into to our lives, the thing left for us to do is be willing to change our habits and patterns of living.

But change without direction isn’t a good thing. You may remember from yesterday’s blog that my friend had to learn how to drive without his hand on the emergency brake when he bought a new car. Learning to drive without your hand on the emergency brake is a good thing, but without direction, that freedom could take you places you don’t want to go. Let’s look at 2 Corinthians 5:17 in its context:

14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:14-17

The passage gives us a hint at the direction our change ought to take – or at least a look at the guiding force behind our change. It says that it is Christ’s love that “compels us.” The King James Version say His love “constrains us.” Another translation of the word is “preoccupies” – Christ love preoccupies us.

The Greek word used is sunecho and it means all three things. Perhaps if we’re not experiencing the new life, it is because we have not allowed Christ’s love to do those three things – to compel, constrain and preoccupy us!

Let’s examine how Christ’s love preoccupies us, constrains us and compels us so that each of us live a changed life that is controlled by the One who initiated and completed the change.

Preoccupy
Are you preoccupied with the love of Christ? Does it occupy your thoughts when you are going about your day?

Paul gives more advice in Romans 12:

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

The way we are transformed is by the renewing of our mind – by that constant preoccupation with Christ’s love. That’s what transforms! It’s interesting that the tense of this passage is quite active – Don’t be conformed – be transformed! 2 Corinthians is past tense – we have been made new – Romans is active voice – be transformed!

My friend lost his old habits as he learned about and appreciated and enjoyed his new car. Now obviously, we don’t want to worship a car, but you get the idea. The more we preoccupy ourselves with the Lord, the more we will be transformed.

Constrain
Do you allow the love of Christ to constrain your actions and words? Do you allow it to place limits on your behavior and thoughts? When we think of limits, we typically think of God limiting the “bad stuff.” That’s true. But it also includes constraining us from doing good stuff that He has created for others to do. It’s that kind of constraint that helps keep us from being crazy people.

If we try to participate in every good opportunity that presents itself, we very easily miss out on two of God’s greatest gifts – time with God and rest.

There are so many good things we could do, but there are specific good works that God has prepared in advance for each of us to do. If I don’t allow God to constrain me, I might try to do the good works He’s prepared for you. Then where would your joy be? And you might try to do my good works and I’d have to compete with you for them. That’s not what God has in mind. What He has in mind is that our love for Him constrains us – sets limits for us so that we do only what He would have us do – and that places limits on both the bad things we shouldn’t do and the good things we should do.

Compel
Do you move forward compelled by the love of God? Do you move forward compelled by the Holy Spirit? Do you plan your day, week, month and life according to His desires for your life?

Look at verse 15:

And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

His desire is that we not live for ourselves, but for Christ. When Christ’s love compels me, I live a life (not just think the thoughts, but live a life) that is more like Christ’s.

Does Christ’s love compel you to live a life for Him, not yourself?

It’s Not One or the Other – It’s All Three
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians that it is Christ’s love that preoccupies, constrains and compels us. Is that true of you? Is it Christ’s love that preoccupies, constrains and compels you?

One final point – we are all wired differently and that wiring will cause us to gravitate toward one of the three of those things more easily than the others. For some of us being preoccupied with the love of Christ comes easy while others are more activity oriented. Some of us are great at being constrained, while others of us are great at being compelled. Sorry folks, but it’s not a one or the other deal. The word Paul used means all three things – preoccupied, constrained and compelled – and if we only allow it to mean one or even two things, we’re not there.

If we only allow Christ’s love to only preoccupy us or only constrain us, we can’t say with Paul that Christ’s love sunecho’s us. For sunecho to be a reality in our lives, all three elements of the word must come into it’s place.

God wants to bring that balance and that means changing from “life as usual” – because we don’t become more like Christ without experiencing change. So let me push you just a little beyond your comfort zone and ask you to ask God to bring your life into sunecho balance. Don’t be satisfied with the old way of operating.

Allow God to make you new as we continue in 2011. Pursue the adventure of allowing the Spirit of God to guide you into a life of power – a life that starts with a preoccupation with the love of Christ, and then is both constrained and compelled by it.

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On January 1, 2011 I blogged about New Beginnings. Now that we’re a couple of months into the year, perhaps it’s time to revisit the topic. January’s blog was about embracing change because unless we embrace change, we miss much of what God has for us. If you’re like me, you probably did pretty well embracing change…for about a week (maybe two)…and then routines crept back into your life and embracing change began to seem like a lot of work with little reward. Let’s take a slightly different take on the subject today…

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV)

Life Lessons from A Friend’s Old Car
I have a friend who got a new car. Prior to getting the car, he was driving a real junker. During the first few days of driving his new car, he realized that actions he had taken to live with his old car had unconsciously developed into habits that he brought to his new car. Habits like rolling down the window (regardless of the weather) and reaching outside to open the car door – because the inside door handle had fallen off; and downshifting early while keeping his hand on the emergency brake when he needed to stop because his brakes were pretty shaky. (We can all be thankful he got a new car!)

As he was telling me about how he had to unlearn what had become automatic behaviors, I couldn’t help but see the life applications. As we grow up we develop behaviors that help us cope with or even thrive in our world. It doesn’t matter whether your childhood was idyllic or not quite so, you developed behaviors that helped you deal with your life. As you grew into adulthood – stepped into your “new” life – you unconsciously carried those behaviors with you. As you met each challenge in adulthood, your first instinct was to apply those behaviors. They either worked or didn’t work and you either adjusted them or didn’t adjust them, depending upon many, many things including how ingrained the behaviors are, your personality and adaptability, and the quality of the mentoring you receive.

The cycle didn’t stop when you became an adult. As you “live” in any specific situation for a time, whether it be a job (or lack thereof), a marriage (or lack thereof), or participation in your church (or lack thereof), you are constantly developing habits and routines that affect how you respond to all of life.

Interestingly, science has found that things we learn or experience in crisis situations – actions associated with high levels of adrenaline in our body – are most easily remembered. I suppose that saves our lives many times. Unfortunately, it also makes it very easy to develop and adopt crisis situation responses. And most of life doesn’t require a crisis situation responses.

I am so thankful that in God, as we allow Him to shape and change us, old things pass away. All things become new. Some of those things that pass away are habits that keep us from moving forward. The habit of driving with our hand on the emergency brake passes away, for example – IF we pursue God and allow Him to changes us. Praise God I don’t have to live my life with these old habits and behaviors!

“But wait!” you say. “You still are living your life out of those old habits!” You’re right. In many was I am. And so are you. Scripture is clear that the old has passed and the new has come – the words are past tense. It has been accomplished in the heavens. So why am I still living life in those old habits?

Key to a Life Made New
Well, I think one of the keys is in that word we have translated as “passed away” or “gone” – figuratively it means “perished” or “neglected.”

One of the most significant keys to experiencing all that God has for us is in that word – the old has perished – it’s a done deal – God did His part. Now it’s our turn to do our part – to neglect the dead thing! Instead of hovering over the dead, perhaps celebrating the life it once had or mourning the life it took from us – let’s turn to the new that has come. The new that is right here beside us – actually inside us – Scripture refers to it as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

Do you spend more time remembering what God has killed than celebrating the new thing He has done? The mourning period is over! Long over! Don’t keep rolling down the window and sticking your hand out in the cold to get your car door open! Yeah, it was fun for a while, but God wants to do a new thing and as long as you keep getting your hand cold and wet, you can’t experience how dry and warm your hands stay when you open the door from the inside! Neglect the thing that God has killed and nurture the new thing God is doing.

Tomorrow’s blog will continue our theme with a look at the verse in its bigger context. I really enjoyed what I found. Check in tomorrow to see what God’s Word says about the direction of our change.

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In our reading in the Old Testament for Resting at the River’s Edge we are making a transition. We finished reading Exodus on Friday. Monday we begin reading Deuteronomy. That’s quite a jump! Let me provide some background.

We’re following a plan that has us reading through the Old Testament over a two year period while reading the whole New Testament each year. Built into the plan in the second year is a second reading of a few foundational Old Testament books:

Genesis – This “Book of Beginnings” provides the creation story, a discussion of the origins of sin, reveals God’s first steps in His plan to overcome the power of sin in people’s lives, and introduces God’s covenant with His people. It provides the very foundation of all that happens after it. It also details the beginning of the history of the Israelites. At the end of the book we find that the Israelites are living in Egypt, having moved there during a famine when Joseph was the Prime Minister. The Israelites were thriving in Egypt.

Exodus – This book takes us through the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, a critical turning point in their history. At the beginning of the book, Joseph and the Pharaoh under which he served have both died. The new Pharaoh recognized that the Israelites were thriving and became afraid of losing his kingdom to them. Consequently, he enslaved them, and their treatment as slaves became increasingly harsh over time. God raised up Moses and Aaron to confront Pharaoh and ultimately rescues the Israelites out of Egypt. The book then records the process of God teaching the Israelites how to worship Him and how to live in community. In the last chapters of the book, we have God giving instructions for building the Tabernacle and the Israelites building it according to those instructions.

Deuteronomy – This book is important because it records three sermons Moses gave shortly before his death. The Israelites have wandered through the wilderness for forty years (recorded in the book of Numbers) and are now poised to enter the Promised Land. Moses will not be going into the Promised land with them. It records Moses’ wisdom and advice to the people before they embark on a tremendous adventure and challenge without him.

We’re in the second year of the reading plan, and have just completed reading Genesis and Exodus. We are skipping over the books of Leviticus (a detailed instruction manual for the priesthood) and Numbers (an account of the Israelites’ forty years of wandering in the wilderness). In chapter 27 of Numbers, the Lord begins the process of transitioning the Israelites from wandering through the wilderness to crossing into the Promised Land:

12One day the LORD said to Moses, “Climb to the top of the mountains east of the river, and look out over the land I have given the people of Israel. 13After you have seen it, you will die as Aaron your brother did, 14for you both rebelled against my instructions in the wilderness of Zin. When the people of Israel rebelled, you failed to demonstrate my holiness to them at the waters.” (These are the waters of Meribah at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.)

15Then Moses said to the LORD, 16“O LORD, the God of the spirits of all living things, please appoint a new leader for the community. 17Give them someone who will lead them into battle, so the people of the LORD will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”
Numbers 27:12-17

The book of Numbers finishes with instructions about their first steps into the Promised Land.

On to Deuteronomy
Monday’s reading will be the first two chapters of Deuteronomy. You’ll find Moses on the east bank of the Jordan River. The Promised Land is on the other side of the river. He’ll begin with a history of the Israelites’ journey. He’s not just an old man telling stories. His repetition of history is meant to remind the Israelites (and us) of the goodness of their God throughout the generations and many of the lessons they have learned throughout a long history of following and rebelling against that God.

Now that you’re caught up a bit, enjoy Monday’s reading. And if you haven’t been reading along with us, Monday’s a great place to jump in and join us.

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