Tag Archives: kingdom living

Advent Revisited: A Psalm for Advent

 

A Psalm for Advent

A Time to remember

One of the things I love to do during the holiday season is to find a quiet place in the house and reminisce on how my family prepared for Christmas.    After Thanksgiving, we would receive the “Sears and Roebuck” Christmas catalog.  We called it “the dream book.” Now Christmas displays begin to appear before Halloween.

As believers, we have the liturgical calendar to help us “mark” the different aspects of this most holy season.  It begins with Advent and the practice of waiting.  It culminates with Christmas, a time of celebrating the arrival of our Savior, Jesus the Christ.

This Advent, I invite you to join us as we reminisce and revisit Advents of the past through our WordBytes devotion.  We have chosen three (3) of our most popular Advent WordBytes from past years.  We hope they will fill your hearts with hope, peace, joy, and love.

“A PSALM FOR ADVENT”

In Search of Peace: When will we find it?

In Search of Peace: When will we find it?

We seek peace.

What peace are we seeking and when will we find it?  Because of God’s grace and mercy, we experience various degrees of peace even in this fallen world.  We are no longer in enmity with God because of Jesus’ gift of life (2 Cor. 5:18).  We on occasion see glimpses of peace between nations and groups divided because of preference, politics, or social agendas.  However, even that peace is tenuous and subject to change with the next difference of opinion.

The search for peace is a pursuit that will continue until we transition to eternity.  So why are we trying so hard to achieve it now?  Because it is God’s desire that we live in peace with each other and experience peace within.  Without peace we will be hindered from accomplishing our divine purpose which includes glorifying God.

Peace was God’s First Choice

When God and man lived in the Garden of Eden, their world was designed to accomplish a specific purpose.  God would provide for His creation—food, clothing, shelter.  Man in turn would be obedient to his Creator and reverence God.  They would enjoy an intimate and harmonious relationship. There was peace.   Of course, we know what happened to the plan of creation.

Although many attempts have been made through the institution of covenants and laws, man has always been troubled with contention, strife, and war (Hab. 1:3; James 4:1; Rom. 2:8).  The biblical text relates attempts by God’s prophets and priests to bring peace, but none could be found—externally nor within.

Only Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah, could bring the “peace” that would reverse the ravages of sin that resulted in broken relationships and shattered hearts (Isa. 9:6-7; Mic. 5:4-5).

Peace is a hard issue.

Early in our study we defined peace as a stress-free state of security and calmness, everything co-existing in perfect harmony and freedom.  Let’s be real.  Man cannot orchestrate this kind of peace while we live in this fallen world.   And this is the world we must live in right now.   The peace described in this definition will be possible when Jesus Christ returns and rules physically during the Millennial Age.

However, right now God’s peace is guaranteed by His unchanging promises and can be found through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is possible spiritually through the Holy Spirit living within us. The Holy Spirit fortifies us as we live in this fallen world.  He sustains us even in the most desperate of circumstances (Gal. 5:22).

Peace that passes all understanding.

The Apostle Paul, while imprisoned in Rome, appealed to the church in Phillipi, to “rejoice in the Lord”.  Strange message considering Paul’s situation.  But while experiencing the backlash of living in a fallen world, he found peace in his situation.  He offered the same to them (Phil. 4:6-7, NLT).

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Chrysostom, Eastern church father and archbishop of Constantinople wrote these words on “how this peace—God’s peace—passes all understanding”.

The peace of God, which He imparts to us, passes all understanding. For who could have expected and who could have hoped for such benefits? It transcends every human intellect and all speech. For His enemies, for those who hate Him, for the apostates—for all these He did not refuse to give his only begotten Son, so as to make peace with them. The peace which will preserve us is the one of which Christ says, “My peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.”  For this peace passes all human understanding. How? When He sees that we should be at peace with enemies, with the unrighteous, with those who display contentiousness and hostility toward us, how does this not pass human understanding?[1]

God’s peace is what we need for 21st century living.  Peace that will not only exceed our expectations but also guard our hearts and minds, from fear, anxiety, hopelessness, and despair.  Our “call to action” as believers is to, like Jesus’ Disciples and the Apostle Paul, become agents of peace and ministers of reconciliation to a “peaceless” world.  In the world’s search for peace, let us be the light to show them where they can find it (Matt. 5:9).

[1]  Ancient Christian Commentary of Scripture, New Testament VIII, Mark J. Edwards

In Search of Peace: What is Peace?

 

In Search of Peace: What is Peace?

The Pursuit of Peace

With all the chaos in the world, contention in our country, and personal stress in our life, it is no surprise that one of the things people want most but can’t seem to find is peace.  Whether we’re talking about world peace, peaceful relationships, or peace-of-mind, there just never seems to be enough peace.

What is peace?  A biblical counselor asked their patients to work through an exercise which has them lists the qualities and characteristics of peace.  The results with both Christian and non-Christians are to help people understand that, many times, the peace they seek is “situational, temporary, and experiential”.

It (peace) is seen as the absence of conflict or the removal of hinderance to personal happiness. “When I’m not fighting, when I’m appreciated, when I’m happy, when I’m financially secure.”[1]   

What does OUR list look like?  Take a minute and write down what you think peace looks like.

Do we want peace?

Silly question!  Who doesn’t want peace?  Well, of course, Satan doesn’t want it.  Whether it’s peace in the world or peace of mind, Satan loves confusion, conflict, and division.  So do Satan’s followers: “principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness of this world” and “spiritual wickedness in high places”, i.e., political, commercial, social, religious (Eph.6:12).   Before we answer the question of do we want peace, let’s agree on what it is.

What is peace?

A general definition of peace is a stress-free state of security and calmness that comes when there is no fighting or war, everything co-existing in perfect harmony and freedom.[2]  Is peace a feeling?

Webster adds to this definition by highlighting the “freedom” aspect of peace: “freedom from disturbance, from war, from civil disorder, and even freedom from disputes and dissension between people.”  Is peace based on our circumstances?

I am enjoying this study on peace.  From a biblical perspective, it gives me an opportunity to closely examine the words that were “carefully” chosen by the Holy Spirit to best represent God’s intended meaning of peace.  It becomes a point of spiritual clarity for me.  Whether it is Greek or Hebrew, the word meaning adds to the “precision” I need to know what peace really looks like.

Peace by any other name!

The biblical concept of peace is larger than what we might read in our modern dictionaries. It rests heavily on the Hebrew word root (slm) which means “to be complete” or “to be sound”.  The verb peace conveys the meaning—”to be complete or whole” or “to live well”.  It is from this root that we get the more familiar word, salom or shalom. 

In the Old Testament, this fine distinction of peace can be grouped into four general categories of shalom:

  1. Wholeness of life or body, i.e., health. (Ps. 34:18; 147:3; Jer. 33:6)
  2. Right relationship or harmony between two parties or people, often established by a covenant. (Numbers 25:12-13; Ezek. 34:25-26)
  3. Prosperity, success, or fulfillment (Lev. 26:3-9)
  4. Victory over one’s enemies or absence of war (Isa. 9:6-7)

The New Testament word for peace, eirene, has been greatly influenced by the Hebrew use of shalom.  It occurs in each book of the New Testament.  Eirene originally referred to the orderly, prosperous life that is possible if there is no war.  Only much later did philosophers begin to apply the concept to an inner, personal peace.

In many ways, the two renderings of peace overlap, especially regarding relationships and harmony between people and nations.   It describes:

  1. Harmonious relationships (Luke 14:32)
  2. Freedom from harassment (rest from war) (Luke 11:21; Acts 9:31)
  3. Order, rest, and contentment (Matt.10:13, John 14:27)
  4. Harmonized relationship between God and man (Acts 10:36; Rom. 5:1; Eph. 2:14-17)

Shalom is still used in both greetings and farewells.  It is meant to act as a blessing to the one to whom it is spoken.

Where is my peace?

In answer to my earlier question, “do we want peace?”  Of course, we do! So, if we all want peace, why don’t we have it and why is it so elusive?  As stated earlier, many times the peace we seek is situational, temporary, and experiential.  If we base our peace on the things of “this world, our peace is tied to an unstable, ever-changing world (1 John 2: 15-17).

Unfortunately, we often allow this type of peace to dictate our feelings and our emotions.  We may feel safe, secure, and calm; that is until there is a change in circumstances.

Peace may appear to elude us because we don’t know what REAL PEACE looks like.  That is the purpose of this series to better understand what real peace looks like.  Once we have a clear understanding of what it looks like and its true source, we will find shalom as we navigate the tumultuous waters of 21st century living.

May your life be filled with health, prosperity, and victory.

May it be filled with God’s shalom.

[1] The Pursuit of Peace, Samuel Stephens, Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, April, 2020

[2] Vocabulary.com

Peacemaking 2023

Revisiting the past

A few years ago, WordBytes featured a series on the Beatitudes (Matt. 5: 1-12).  One of our teachings in that series dealt specifically with “peacemakers”.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.”  Matt. 5:9 (NRS)

I returned to this teaching today as a result of several events that have occurred this week.  The first was a Facebook post from a college classmate.  Although I’m not a close follower of Facebook, when I received the following invitation to “check it out”, I was moved and challenged.

I am tired.  There is too much hate and too many who want to keep hate going!!!!  Breaking News:  In these difficult times, we all need to show our love to one another.  I am challenging at least 20 of my friends to comment, “Love ya”, and them put this on your status and see who actually says Love ya! 

I’m not going to share the results but, in my mind, my classmate is a peacemaker.  What role do we each play as peacemakers?  How willing are we to callout bad behavior and redirect people to what Jesus taught?  Did Jesus mean what He said?  Absolutely!  He wasn’t talking just to hear Himself!

Another story of peacemaking

This morning this news banner came across my phone: “Congress tries to break fever of incivility amid string of vulgar, toxic exchanges”.  

They live a mile apart in Columbus, Ohio. And they shop in the same produce aisle at the same grocery store. US Reps Mike Carey a Republican and Joyce Beatty, a Democrat, often bump into each other at the airport and see each other all over the neighborhood.  Over glasses of orange juice and ice water in May, they even talk about the importance of being seen together at work, talking, and planning. Carey and Beatty have formed a Congressional Civility Caucus, seeking to inspire a more civil discourse between the two parties.[1]   

These two individuals could be poster children for what peacemaking looks like.  How do you think “the world” will view their actions?  Do a Google search on “civility in Congress” and see the various articles written about this topic.  There are as many against civility efforts as in favor of it.  Sad so sad!  How can there be peace if there are no peacemakers?

What does a peacemaker look like?

Peacemakers are intentional in creating opportunities that mirror God’s heart of peace in the world. They look for opportunities to both prevent potential conflicts and encourage peaceful relationships even if it means personal sacrifice and self-deference (1 Cor. 9:22).

They understand that peace is not the result of external factors or human effort but is the internal “heart work” of the Holy Spirit, who is daily conforming believers to the image of Christ, the Ultimate Peacemaker (Rom. 8:29).  Peacemaking finds genesis in the heart of God.

The need for peacemaking

For wherever there is jealousy or selfish ambition, there will be disorder and every other kind of evil (James 3:16, TLB)

Wherever there is strife and envy, you can betcha that Satan is the puppeteer behind the screen.   That strife can exist between strangers, friends, church members, or yes, even family.  This week in an article entitled, “Why So Many Young People Are Cutting Off Their Parents”, Karl Pillemer, a professor at Cornell University, found that 27% of Americans over the age of 18 were estranged from a family member.  Scary huh?

Children of God are Peacemakers.

The peace that Jesus speaks to in this Beatitude is not a “natural” habit or disposition of man. This peace is imparted to us during the process of salvation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Practicing peacemaking is not easy in the natural or our flesh.  Yet it is more than possible in the Spirit (Gal. 522).

What adjective do people use to describe us?  Are we portrayed as bridge builders or wrecking balls?   Do people see us as encouragers or dream crushers?  As silly as this exercise may seem, it is important that the world sees us as God’s peacemakers.

[1] CBS News

Clarion Word Classics: What if Jesus Really Meant what He Said?

Expand our spiritual thought

Earlier this year, WordBytes launched a new learning format entitled The Clarion Word Classics.  The word “clarion” comes from the Latin word claru or ‘clear’.  Used as an adjective, it means ‘loud and clear’.

Our intent with this quarterly series is to make “loud and clear” what is ours in Christ (Rom. 8:17) and  the relevancy of our faith for this present generation (Matt. 24:34).

New thought

With The Clarion Word Classics we will share faith writings from key theologians who will strengthen and enrich our spiritual lives and faith walk.  Some from  sage theologians and writers  and also introduce contemporary writers who express spiritual answers to the challenges of 21st century living.

To kickoff this Clarion Word Classics (CWC), we introduce the book Red Letter Revolution:  What if Jesus Really Meant What He Said?  Listed among the most popular devotional books, we thought this may be of interest to our curious readers.  Shane Claiborn and Tony Campolo , offer interesting perspectives on how to make our faith real in a world with no absolutes and growing disbelief in God and Jesus.

Let the Holy Spirit guide you

In the Word Ministries provides CWC in our effort to “inspire authentic communities of faith, fellowship, and learning.”  It is in that spirit that we share this book.  This is not an endorsement or agreement with the views shared.  Here  is an excerpt from and about  Red Letter Revolution.  

With Eternity in Mind: Where do we go from here?

 

Where do we do from here?

Eternity Recapitulated

What have we learned about eternity?  Eternity is generally not a topic of discussion within most social circles, although it should be.  Why?  Because it represents not only where we will spend “forever and ever” but also will influence how we CHOOSE TO LIVE our life today.  Eternity begins the moment we are born and continues until our demise.  Everybody gets eternity!

However, believers also receive eternal/everlasting life.   Everlasting life is the blessedness in God’s presence.  This relates not only to the quality of life in this age, but also to both the quality and duration of life in the age to come.  Everlasting life begins when individuals accept Jesus Christ as their Savior.  Everybody may not get everlasting life!  

Because eternity is so important, it is imperative that we have a clear and accurate understanding about it.  What’s the threat?  The sway of myths, lies, and misunderstandings.  That is why we believers depend on the authority and inerrancy of the Bible to guide us.

The blessedness in God’s presence

The biggest learning, for me, is that eternal life begins NOW.  Scripture teaches that to experience the fullness of God’s glory we need to separate from our flesh—the part that temporarily houses our spirit.  Our spirit—our essence, the part that never dies—will ultimately enter the “spiritual place” prepared for us in heaven.  (John 14:1-2)

That is why it is important to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (2 Cor. 5:16-17).  Spiritual conversion (redemption and renewal) is needed to prepare us to enter God’s presence—on earth and in the future, in heaven.  While I am yet alive, the blessedness of God’s presence is possible through the gift of His Holy Spirit—a foretaste of glory divine.

That which is born of the flesh is flesh;
and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 
(John 3:6)

What does blessedness look like?

How does the blessedness of God’s presence manifest itself?  What does eternal/everlasting life look like in my everyday life?  Here are several scriptures to begin answering those questions?

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  (Gal. 5: 22-24, RSV)

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and excellence. Thus, he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust and may become participants of the divine nature. (2 Pet. 1:3-4)

The greatest witness to God’s presence in our lives are the spiritual blessings we receive in Christ (Eph. 1:3-14).  God’s blessedness is shown in His love, His provision, and His protection.

God’s presence, the reality of eternity now, gives us a “living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3-7)—boldness, perseverance, and tenacity–to live out God’s purpose for our life (Eph. 2:10).  His presence guarantees it!

I pray that, according to the riches of his glory,
he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit. 
(Ephesian 3:16)

Where do we go from here?

Dr. Joseph M. Stowell, author of Eternity:  Reclaiming a Passion for What Endures writes:

Many Christians become disillusioned as their quest for peace and pleasure on this earth feel them with despair.  If you are one of these believers who senses you’re missing something—who have hoped for more—it may be that your perspective is distorted by your focus on this world. With heaven as our point of reference, we can learn to live a satisfying, balance, and victorious life even in a fallen world.

We MUST “reclaim our passion for what endures”—eternity.  We best serve The King and His Kingdom, by:

    • FOCUSING  our attention on eternity and things of God.
    • DEMOSTRATING to others what eternal life looks like in everyday life.
    • SHARING  the reality of eternity with both believers and nonbelievers.

With Eternity in Mind: Begin with the End in Mind

 

What are we looking for?

In understanding what eternity is and its importance to us, we must “begin with the end in mind”.  What do we want to know about eternity?  Why does it matter?   All of us have a differing view as to what eternity is and what it isn’t.

The reality is this, as human beings, we will continue our existence even after death in eternity. The question is, which of the eternal lives will we experience? Will we experience joy and peace forever more with Jesus or will our eternal life consist of judgment, fire, and flames.  The choice is ours to make.

That’s why it’s so important that we begin with the end in mind.  To gain a better understanding of eternity, let’s begin with some important definitions. Key to understanding the biblical meaning of these terms is the Bible’s use of the word “eternal”.

Eternity by any other name

Eternal, eternity, eternal/everlasting life.  There are many variations of the word eternal used to describe eternity.  We will begin with some basic definitions to help us with our study.

“Eternal or everlasting” is an adjective used to describe a state of being “without end”.  It is used, for example, to describe the Trinity (Ps. 90:2; Prov. 8:23; Heb. 9:14)

Eternal can be applied to God’s attributes.  For example, His power (Eccl. 12:5), His righteousness (Ps. 119:142, 144), and His love (Jer. 31:3).   They endure without end!  As long as God exists, so do His eternal attributes.

In the Bible, eternal is also used to describe both believers (John 3:15; Eph. 3:11) and the wicked (Mark 3:29; Matt. 25:46).

“Eternity” is “time without end”.  It is the duration of God’s dealings with His people in times past, now, and always.  God has always been involved in the lives of His people and reveal Himself through various means (Heb. 1:1-2).

Eternity also includes a coming age from which evil will be banished and where God will reign in glory.  Quite different from the current world order.  

“Eternal/everlasting life” has been defined as the divinely bestowed gift of blessedness in God’s presence that endures without end.[1]  This relates not only to the quality of life in this age, but also to both the quality and duration of life in the age to come.   

We often limit eternal/everlasting life to life after death and heaven.  But eternal life is much more.  We will explore this aspect of eternal life later in this series.

Eternity in our hearts

To answer the question “why do we want to know about eternity”, I offer you this answer provided by King Solomon who wrote in Ecclesiastes 3: 11, “God has set eternity in the human heart”.

In every human soul is a God-given awareness that there is something more than this transient world and with that awareness of eternity comes a hope that we will one day find a fulfillment not afforded by the vanity in this world.  

We possess an innate knowledge that there is something more to life than what we can see and experience in the here and now. Through all the abs and downs of life, we have a glimpse of stability—God has “set eternity in the human heart.”  We have a divinely implanted awareness that the soul lives forever. This world is not our home.  [2]    

Eternity and Knowing God

Eternal, eternity, everlasting life.  We have heard these words used in various contexts and in a multitude of religious venues.  However, unless we intentionally focus on its importance to our spiritual welfare, eternity will remain nothing more than theological jargon we hear on Sunday morning.

Jesus prayed in John 17:1-3 (NLT):

Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him.  And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.

To know the true God and His Son Jesus Christ, it is important that we understand eternity. Next week we will continue our study by exploring eternal life.  What is it?  When does it begin?

[1] Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary

[2] Got Questions, “What does it mean that we have eternity in our hearts?”

On the Road to God’s New Thing

A road by any other name

A road is literally defined as a wide way leading from one place to another. We often think of roads as access to new opportunities of commerce or development, such as the road to success.

A road can also describe a series of events or a course of action that will lead to a particular outcome. In the book, The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck uses “road” figuratively to describe the sometimes hard and often painful process of change. Peck uses the “road less traveled” as a illustration of the journey this requires.

Jeremiah’s  road

In Jeremiah 31, the prophet speaks to the people of God in Babylon to prepare them for a “road”—both literally and figuratively—that would return them to their own land after their 70-year exile.

Jeremiah’s message is clear. They are not to be afraid or lose heart. They are to be focused with a firm resolution to rebuild the nation of Israel.

In Jeremiah 31:22,  Israel is called to refrain from falling back into their old rebellious habits as God creates “a new road”  to their salvation—a “new thing” that had never been done before (or since).

How long wilt thou go about, O thou backsliding daughter? for the LORD hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.  

Failure on the road

Israel is warned against potential backsliding which is interpreted as “faithless”. In the past both Israel and Judah had consistently failed to “holdfast” to God and depend solely on Him for their every need. (Job 27:6) The results was always disastrous as proven by the conquest of both nations.

Where are we placing our faith? Is it in people—elected officials, family members, or friends?  Are we dependent on things—bank accounts, social status, or professional affiliations? Do we believe only in ourselves—our intellect, looks, or personality? When Jesus returns, will He find  us faithfully following Him on the new road? (Luke 18:8)

With God on the road to new things

Israel is encouraged to trust God, Who would create a “new thing”—interpreted as strange and surprising—in the earth. God would create a woman who would “compass” or protect man.

Many interpreters understand this “new thing” to be the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  A woman, the Virgin Mary, enclosed in her womb the Might One. This was to be their incentive.

They would know that with their return from exile came the promise of not only their physical restoration but also the spiritual blessing of the Mighty God (Is. 9:6). God would not cast off His people but bless them. This was to be their assurance.

What is the road for us today?

How do we  to live in the knowledge of this “new thing”?  Knowing the blessings of being in Christ (Ep. 1:3-14).

We live attentively in God’s presence. God is creating new opportunities for us.  However, we must listen for His voice and watch where He is working. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

We live expectantly in God’s provision. God has provided all that we need to live godly lives and to accomplish His purpose in our lives. (2 Pet. 1:3-8)

We live faithfully in God’s purpose. As the elect of God we live by faith. We do not backslide or “draw back unto perdition” but trust that He who began this “good work in us” is able to complete it. (Phil. 1:6)

Our journey to understanding “new things” has hopefully provided incentive and inspiration to walk in the divine purpose God has created for our lives. When we as believers trust God and understand God’s reason for “new things”, we can move forward joyfully in faith and confidence.

Throwback Wednesday: Six Months to Live

 

Throwback Wednesday for a New Year

Where has the time gone?

It’s May, 2023.  In a few weeks, we will enter midyear.  And my question is this.  What have you done with the time gifted to you?  Did you squander it?

Have you rushed to do the routine rather than enjoying the uniqueness of each day.  The rich fool spent his time in the routine of planting, not knowing that his soul would be required of him, sooner than later.  (Luke 12:13-21)

Have you spent your time pondering over past hurts and offenses? There is little to be gained in such activities and definitely nothing that can be useful in accomplishing God’s purpose for our lives. The brother of the prodigal son was offended and jealous of the attention his brother received.  He chose to “cling” to his anger. He was offended and “would not come in.” (Luke 16:25-32)

If given the prognosis that you had six months to live, how would you spend your time?  This is the topic for discussion in this Throwback Wednesday. 

Six months to live?

What would you do if after your annual physical exam, the doctor shared the sobering fact that you have six months to live?  This is not a scenario I would wish on anyone.  However, in reality, we don’t know how much time we have left in our frail and finite lives (Ps. 90:10-12).  It really could be six months, six days, or six years.  So what’s my point?

We have passed the midpoint of 2021.  Taken in a larger context, we have moved passed the events of 2020, with its losses and human volatility.  BUT GOD has brought us safely to this point in time (Prov. 18:10).   And what will we do with the time that remains?  What will we do with our next six months?  Will we live our life as if there is no tomorrow?  Or will we live each day with gratitude and intentionality?

Living with gratitude and intentionality

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation and thankfulness for what one has.  Regrettably, we often miss the mark in articulating gratitude.  In the busyness of living, we take for granted those things God provides through His grace.

Intentionality is the fact of being deliberate or purposeful.  Living with intention means that we consciously direct our thoughts, beliefs, and actions toward some object or situation.  For believers, this object is Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

A second invitation to abundant living

Both gratitude and intentionality are key in moving us closer to the abundant life God has designed for each of our lives (Ep. 2:10; John 10:10).

As we examine our lives (with six months to live), it might be helpful to revisit the blessings God has for us when we practice gratitude and intentional living.

Abundant Living is a great reminder of God’s possibilities for the time He is giving us.   What will we do with our next six months?

Living the Resurrected Life

Living the Resurrected Life

Resurrected Living

Since Easter, we have embarked on the journey to gain a greater understanding of the resurrection.  More specifically, we have focused on its reality, its wonder, and its power in our everyday life.

Hopefully, what we have come to realize is that our “everyday life” can be lived more fully through the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20).  This power we learned is through the Holy Spirit that also dwells in us.  “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He (God) who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” (Rom. 8:11)

Living the resurrected life can be realized as we incorporate three (3) key principles to our understanding.  Resurrected life is: (1) transformational, (2) intentional, and (3) relational.

Resurrected life is transformational.

When we accept Jesus as our Savior, our life begins to change.  How does change occur?  By emptying ourselves of our agendas and replacing them with God’s plan.  We move from a “self-directed life” to a “Christ-directed life”.

Paul explains this transformation to the church in Galatia (Gal. 2:19-20, NLT):

I have been crucified with Christ.  I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 

Our transformation is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.  It is our responsibility to cooperate with His instructions.  Each day we empty ourselves through our acts of obedience and by loving one another.   We then let the Holy Spirit fill that space in our heart (the filling of the Holy Spirit) and follow His lead.

As we empty ourselves, there is more room for the Holy Spirit to occupy.  In the filling, we begin to look and act more like Jesus.  We become conformed to His image (Rom. 8:29).

Resurrected life is intentional.

It begins with acceptance of resurrection as a “new way” of life.  When we accepted Jesus as our Savior, we did more than buy the “fire insurance”.  We spiritually “died with Christ on the cross”.  Part of that dying includes ending our “preoccupation” and “attraction” to the things of this world (1 John 2:15-16).

Paul explains this intentional behavior to the church at Colosse (Col. 3:1-5, NLT):

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power.  Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.  For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual sin, impurity, lust, and shameful desires. Don’t be greedy for the good things of this life, for that is idolatry.

Living intentionally is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.  That’s why we must be thoughtful and mindful in our pursuit of the resurrected life (Rom. 12:1-2).   This process should include disciplines which help us daily renew our hearts and mind, i.e., prayer, study of God’s Word, meditation.

Resurrected life is relational.

The Apostle John captures Jesus’ final hours with His disciples in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17).  Jesus knew that in less than 24 hours He would be on the cross.  After spending 3 ½ years in intimate relationship with His Disciples, Jesus would leave them on their own.  However, the Disciples would not be alone (John 15:7-15).

In chapter 15, Jesus takes time to stress the importance of relationship and preparation for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  The Disciples’ success would depend on their ability to stay in relationship with or abide in Him.  This “abiding” would be accomplished through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Abiding describes the “dwelling as it were within Jesus and to be continually operative in Him by His divine influence and energy.”[1]  This relationship is like that which Jesus experienced with the Father (John 10:30; 14:31; 15:10).  The Disciple’s power would come through developing a similar relationship with the Holy Spirit.

Our success in living the resurrected life is also dependent on our abiding relationship with Jesus (vv.1-11) and our demonstration of love for our fellowman (vv. 12-17).

Resurrected life in the 21st century

Resurrection is more than a one-time event.  While the resurrection of Jesus is a documented, historic occurrence that took place over 2,000 years ago, it is much more.  Its power continues to exert an unprecedented and recurring influence in the hearts and lives of believers around the world.  Even today, when the Gospel is shared, people believe and become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

For believers, resurrected life is a time for transformation as we experience a new relationship with God the Father, Jesus our Lord, and the Holy Spirit.  Resurrected life is possible as we intentionally pursue God’s plan and will for His kingdom.  Resurrected life is an experience, from which, we will never be the same.

Why is this important for us today?  Because with Christ’s resurrection, we have an opportunity to “new life” that is found by our faith in Jesus Christ.  It is in resurrected life that victorious living begins. We can depend on God’s power and Jesus’ victory beginning on Resurrection Sunday AND extending throughout all of eternity.

[1]  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon