Born From God

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S (Scripture): John 1:8 [John] himself wasn’t the light, but his mission was to testify concerning the light.

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The true light that shines on all people

was coming into the world.

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The light was in the world,

and the world came into being through the light,

but the world didn’t recognize the light.

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The light came to his own people,

and his own people didn’t welcome him.

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But those who did welcome him,

those who believed in his name,

he authorized to become God’s children,

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born not from blood

nor from human desire or passion,

but born from God.

O (Observation): The age-old tradition of being born into the right circumstance / religion is now overturned in the coming of Jesus – the Word incarnate.

God had always tried to remind God’s people that being saved was never about just being a part of “Israel.” Rather, being saved was always about trusting God for daily sustenance, and loving and forgiving your neighbor.

This way of life comes only through being born from God…not from blood, nor from human desire or passion.

A (Application): So what does relying on God for sustenance look like?

I think I still have to take care of what God has given me to oversee and to be a good steward, but I also have to look at what God has given to me in terms of resources: a good mind, loving friends and family, and empathy for my neighbor. Using these gifts, I hope God will bless me. At the least, I will apply these gifts to the world and seek to meet others’ needs in this world.

Other people have other gifts. Hopefully, they will use these gifts for God’s glory.

In sharing the gifts I’ve been given, I am being a witness of God’s redeeming love for all the world. As I work with others in the world, they will see God’s compassion and desire for all to encounter God’s love. And that will be my invitation to others. Let them see God’s love through my presence and hands and heart.

That may seem arrogant, but I hope it doesn’t come from human desire. I hope that desire comes from God!

P (Prayer): Lord, make me a channel of your peace. Amen.

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Paying It Forward

S (Scripture): 2 Corinthians 5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh; even though we once knew Christ according to the flesh, we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

O (Observation): Paul brings an understanding of what it means to be transformed in Christ.   Paul points out that in Christ, we are reconciled to God.   This means that God looks upon us with favor, out of mercy.  

Jesus himself took on our nature, our flesh, and redeemed it, reconciled it to God.   In the cross, Jesus said, I am of the flesh…and God transformed Jesus through his death and resurrection.  

Jesus is no longer to be seen according to the flesh (just skin, blood, bones, etc.).  He is one with God.  Paul calls all believers to look upon one another as more than just flesh, but also, as God’s chosen…as one with God.   And so, we forgive one another, and acknowledge one another’s repentant hearts.  

A (Application): Jesus made us right with God. And now we are called to make others right with God and with one another. We received grace and mercy.  Now, we are to pass on this gift of grace and mercy.   We are to look upon others with grace and mercy, and be ready to forgive and re-build were brokenness exists.  

Let’s go and do this today.  Where can you help build relationships and bridges?

P (Prayer):  Lord, we cannot repay you for what you have done in reconciling us with God.  So, we pay it forward, looking at others not according to the flesh, but as God’s beloved, with grace and mercy. Amen. 

Farther Than I Know


S (Scripture): John 6:47 Jesus says, “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that has come down from heaven, so that a person may eat from it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread he will live forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

O (Observation): Jesus’ followers were looking for a sign to verify that Jesus was the one that God had sent.  They heard his words, but they wanted a sign.   Their ancestors received manna from heaven and they wanted a sign, too.  

This time, though, God gave more than just bread to eat: God gave them the bread of life – Jesus.  All who looked to Jesus for salvation received it.   This makes Jesus the bread that brings forth eternal life.   

Still, though,…to eat the flesh…?

A (Application):  Sometimes a leap of faith is what carries us through.  We plan and budget and prep.   But sometimes, we just reach the end of our rope…and that’s when God really takes over.   

Eat flesh?  Drink blood?   How odd…

What good can a slug of wine and a morsel of bread do me?  Well, it’s more than bread and more than wine…it’s God’s presence and grace in the bread and wine… mysterious… life-giving.    And it’s eternal.  

Being fed in this manner – week in, week out – I have been shaped to believe that my cares and my worries are never too big for God to take on.  And knowing that my wife and children and I are being cared for by our God of grace and mercy, I am able to carry on…unchained from fear and doubt… confident that God is carrying me farther than I know.   

P (Prayer):  Lord, I thank you again for carrying me farther than I know.  Amen.  

Hearts of Flesh

  

S (Scripture): Ezekiel 36:24 “‘I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries; then I will bring you to your land. 25 I will sprinkle you with pure water and you will be clean from all your impurities. I will purify you from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put my Spirit within you; I will take the initiative and you will obey my statutes and carefully observe my regulations. 28 Then you will live in the land I gave to your fathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. 29 I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and multiply it; I will not bring a famine on you. 30 I will multiply the fruit of the trees and the produce of the fields, so that you will never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. 31 Then you will remember your evil behavior and your deeds which were not good; you will loathe yourselves on account of your sins and your abominable deeds. 32 Understand that it is not for your sake I am about to act, declares the sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and embarrassed by your behavior, O house of Israel…

36 Then the nations which remain around you will know that I, the Lord, have rebuilt the ruins and replanted what was desolate. I, the Lord, have spoken – and I will do it!’”

O (Observation): God witnessed His people wandering from their faith.   They seemed to have forgotten all that God commanded.  And yet, for God’s own sake, God redeems His people.   

The shift God makes allows for the Spirit to enter the hearts of each believer.   Not only this, but God wants to take their hearts of stone (callous, unresponsive) and replace them with hearts of flesh (not a bad thing here, most likely referring to hearts that will absorb God’s direction and respond appropriately).   

Overall, God is acting NOT because the people deserve it, but because God wants to restore God’s own reputation amongst the nations. God will not give up on Israel, because God, full of benvolence, will stick to the covenant He made with God’s people.  

God will do whatever it takes to bring God’s people back.  Maybe even dying in a cross to cover even our deepest sins and to overcome our separation from God. 

A (Application):  The discipline of reading through the Old Testament via the Daily Moravian Texts has proven a worthy endeavor for me.   Even having gone through seminary, and studying through Old Testament theology, I still find God freshly amazing and surprising. 

I hear people talk about how we are a post-Christian society now…about how prayer is not allowed in schools, about how our neighbors don’t really care if people go to church or not…about the wars in the world…and all of this pointing to “the end times.”

I can’t help but read stories like Ezekiel’s and be filled with a renewed sense of hope…not because our situation is like that of God’s people in Ezekiel’s time.   Rather, I’m hopeful because I see the lengths to which God will go to redeem us from our own selfishness and sinfulness.  

Hell does not worry me…suffering I can endure…because our God is bigger than all of that, and will never let me go.  I am free of the worries of salvation.  Now, with that freedom, I can give and serve like no one else…for God’s glory.  (Yes, I know…I’ll goof it up along the way…but of that, too, I have already been set free.)

P (Prayer): Lord, give me the courage to endure.  Remind me of your actions with our ancestors in the faith.  Amen. 

The Word Became Flesh

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S (Scripture): John 1:14 Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. … 1:18 No one has ever seen God. The only one, himself God, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.

O (Observation): Some point to the Gospel of John as that which separates the “spirit” as good, and the “flesh” as bad. Whether that is true or not, we have now had God’s Son come to us as one in the flesh. Jesus is the revelation of
God on earth. Jesus is the redemption of the flesh.

And this Son of God is the one and only. We all are children of God, but Jesus is definitely the one-of-a-kind Son. And because Jesus has come, we now know what God acts like and we know fully God’s saving power.

A (Application): I continue to be amazed about how God can continue to come to us and save us. We’ve screwed up time and time again. God sent messengers time and time again. Now, God has sent his one and only son.

I certainly know that I don’t have that kind of patience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told my kids to turn lights off when they leave a room or what they’re supposed to do when they come home from school (put their lunch box away, show us their school agenda, read, etc) and yet they find a way to NOT do these things. (Of course, I was the same way when I was their age…)

But the most profound thing about God coming to us as Jesus, God in the flesh, is this: rather than calling us to be more obedient, God chooses to give more grace. Specifically, Grace in the flesh, Grace on the cross.

Only through grace, only through becoming God’s children, do we begin to have the desire to be obedient.

Maybe that needs to have more of an impact on how we raise our kids? First love, then obedience.

P (Prayer): Lord, you have come to us as One Love in the Flesh. Help us to embrace this gift of your only Son, so that we can become full of grace in our flesh. Amen.