Past. Present. Future. Jesus changes the script.

 

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1This letter is from Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, appointed by the command of God our Savior and Christ Jesus, who gives us hope.

12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, 13even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. 14Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.

15This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 17All honor and glory to God forever and ever! He is the eternal King, the unseen one who never dies; he alone is God. Amen.  1 Timothy 1:1, 12-17
The Apostle Paul reminds Timothy of his testimony and celebrates Jesus’ extraordinary grace. How gracious Jesus has been! Paul in no way deserved Jesus’ love; in fact Paul was a persecutor of the church. Paul rejected Jesus as the Messiah and turned to violence in order to rid Jerusalem and the region of anyone who confessed Jesus as the Lord.

But that all changed after the intersection of Jesus and Paul on the Damascus Road. Jesus has become the source of Paul’s faith, hope, and love. That’s true of you and me. We in no way deserved Jesus’ mercy. But somewhere in our history the Risen Lord Jesus intercepted us and brought us into his Kingdom. He is now filling us with faith, hope and love. We have been changed! He is changing us!

Faith from Jesus changes our view of our past:  forgiven.

Hope from Jesus changes our view of our future: secure.

Love from Jesus changes our view of our today: full of possibilities.

When trouble taps your inner cynic, God…

 

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15See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19Do not quench the Spirit. 20Do not despise prophecies, 21but test everything; hold fast what is good. 22Abstain from every form of evil.

23Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.  1 Thessalonians 5:15-24

In many situations you may wonder “what in the world is God up to!?” In those moments, you may also wonder “What is God’s will?” In all situations the Scripture says we can enter into God’s will when we rejoice, pray, and give thanks no matter the situation. The Gospel provides us with plenty to rejoice about no matter the situation. The Gospel gives us promises to claim in prayer and God’s Presence to cling to in prayer. And always Jesus Himself fuels for our thanks giving.

Living a God-directed life means that you direct your heart, mind and soul toward God. Jesus makes it possible. A God-directed life is possible through the experience of Jesus forgiving us and filling us with His Spirit.

But, there are choices and ways that will either dampen or build up the Spirit’s “God-directing” work in our lives. The Apostle Paul lists them in quick succession after the call to thanksgiving. Entering into the vibrancy of Christian life can be severely hindered by our circumstances depending on our posture towards the prophetic ministry and our willingness to abstain from every form of evil.

The prophetic ministry of the church generally is the work of forth-telling: bringing you the word of the Lord for your current situations and calling you into dependence on Jesus no matter the situation.  Forth-telling will also identify what is hindering us from a vibrant relationship and trust with Jesus. Thus the next command: Abstain from all evil. The willingness to abstain from evil is generated by a tender heart toward God. A hardened heart persists and actually embraces evil. When we have been hurt in our circumstances and situations that’s prime time for evil taking hold in our hearts.

So, the work of our life with Jesus, the work of our discipleship is to attend to the condition of our heart. When I’m having difficulty rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks I want to examine what else is crowding my “life in Christ.” Is there in me any resistance to the Word based and Holy Spirit empowered ministry of God’s people? Is there a reluctance to be done with any form of evil in my heart, mind, and body?

What I’ve found after answering these questions is that we are going to need the following blessing and promise:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. I Thessalonians 5:23-24

He who calls you is faithful!

Who are you looking forward to?

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16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18

What are you looking forward to?

That’s a loaded question for a Christian. Its loaded with a view of history that has history moving towards a person. So our question is more appropriately framed as, “Who are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to Jesus.

The Resurrection of Jesus marks what began with His Incarnation: The Kingdom of God is at hand and has been steadily advancing in the lives of men and women.

To be in Christ is to have a purposeful and personal destiny. When you and I anticipate the day when death is completely swallowed up in the life of Jesus we have a source for courage. Thus Paul says, “encourage one another with these words.”

Why do we need courage?

We need courage to live today as if the Lord Jesus Christ has affection and admonition for all who will enter His Kingdom eternally. We need courage today because we are surrounded by voices that compete for our affection. We need courage today because we cannot live and speak prophetically in the character of Jesus on our own strength or in our own personal visions of power. We need courage to walk “in the fear of the Lord.”

We need courage to act and move according to the commands of Jesus. Such courage can be  nurtured in our relationships with each other. “Encourage one another with these words.” But it does require a maturing capacity to give and receive questions about our attitudes and actions. And it requires humility to receive the exhortations directing us to the greatness and glory of Jesus.

More than meets the eye.

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1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-3

Your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Of this I’m sure: there is no end to the many demands competing for the allegiance of our attention, affections, and thinking. When we anchor our identity in Christ He works to bring the way think and act into alignment with Him. He is the King on the throne of God… and we are with Him.

We live like undercover agents—seeking to act and live according to Jesus’ generous grace shown to us. What we are is not always recognizable. Jesus knows all about. Even those closest to him didn’t recognize our Heavenly Father. (See John 14)

But, even though on occasion when what we are is not apparent to others and even to ourselves, Paul affirms this reality: our lives are hidden with Christ in God. There’s more to you than meets the eye! We have been brought into His communion and there is nothing in this world that can change our destiny. When Christ appears, when our faith is made sight, we will be with Him displaying His glory.

So go ahead, get out there and take a risk at loving, at trying something new, at beginning a new adventure with Jesus, or at picking up where you left off or fell down last time. There is no failure that will invalidate who you are in Christ. Your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Tastes of reality in a world seeking to undo reality

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13You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. 14He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. 15In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross.

16So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. 17For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality.  Colossians 2:13-17

Jesus is the reality that is to come. But He is also present for you now. When we come to Jesus we enter into a reality that was hidden from us by death. Separation from God infects our mind and even our life with death. Deadness is a separation from reality. The Gospel declares that according to the Scripture Jesus was born, lived, died, was buried, and was raised from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins.

Reality as God sees it is to be full of life. A part of Christ Jesus we do get to enjoy a lot of life: food, drink, holy-days,  and celebrations. But these are not THE Reality God has in mind for us in and of themselves. The Apostle Paul shows the Church in Collesea that these good foods and celebrations connect people with their appetites and  longings for satisfaction, for rest, for new beginnings that are only fully realized in Jesus Christ!

So eat. So celebrate. But look always for this reality: Jesus Christ is your life and your victory over death. He is your new beginning.