A New Creation!

Lively Greetings, Friends!

I’m writing this one to you from California! Our second son Sean and his wife Tina have just had their first child, Mia Jordan! As you can see from this picture (taken last night, shortly after her arrival) she is a newborn, and while I wanted to share our joy with you, her birth also relates to what I wanted to share with you this week about newness. But, since we flew down here to celebrate with them I don’t want to spend too long writing, so I’m going to share with you something I from my Adventure with Jesus, and I begin with a question:

What does “new” mean? If you buy something used at Goodwill, it may be new to you, but it is not “new.” If you have an old computer, a new ‘operating system’ may be an ‘upgrade,’ but the computer is not new. If you put a new engine in your car, it’s still your old car – only the engine changed. What does it mean to be “new?” 

Father, as we grow in our relationship with You, we thank You. As we come to Your written word again today, we ask that You would speak to us. Allow us to experience today what we talked about yesterday – to hear Jesus. We don’t want to read or study the Bible to learn facts; we want to get to know You. Thanks.

 If you are fortunate enough to have a Bible, find ‘Second Corinthians.’ It’s in the ‘New Testament’ and was originally a letter to Christians who lived in what was a major city in southern Greece – Corinth. Corinth was a ‘modern’ city: It had a population well over 100,000, was along a major roadway, and the people there were into making money! A number of people in the city had come to believe in Jesus, but they were struggling and couldn’t see a whole lot of change in their lives yet. Paul wrote to them to tell them that even though they couldn’t see it with their physical eyes, a fundamental change had happened to them. At chapter 5 verse 17 he says:

“. . . if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 

Twice in these few words he says ‘new.’ Not ‘refurbished’ or ‘upgraded.’ New. Notice, he does not say that the ‘newness’ will happen after some lengthy period of time, or after sufficient training, or any such thing. There is only one condition – that you be “in Christ.” If you believe in Jesus alone to make you right with God, you have met this one condition: You are “in Christ.” Thus, you are new. It may not look like it on the outside, but it’s true. You aren’t the same person you were before you came to Jesus! That person is gone; you have been made new (a ‘new creation’). You have yet to mature, but the essential change has already taken place.

I understand that if you take a caterpillar to some genetic scientists they will tell you that the DNA is that of a butterfly!  It doesn’t look like a butterfly, it doesn’t yet live as a butterfly, but as the creature matures its true DNA will become manifest. The same is true of you as a new creature: The change has happened; as you mature, your true new nature will become evident. Amazingly, God doesn’t wait for the change to show itself before talking about us as we now are: He calls us “saints” (‘men and women set apart for God’s intended purpose’). He says this over and over (you’ll find it near the beginning of almost every letter in the ‘New Testament,’ starting with Romans 1:7, I Corinthians 1:2, II Corinthians 1:1, etc.). You’ve been set apart for God’s intended purpose: You’re a saint! 

Lord Jesus, this is impossible to understand. We don’t look new. Some of the thoughts we have, some of the words that come out of our mouth, are no different than before. Yet, here You say that I am new. Cause me to believe what You are saying. Not upgraded. Not reconditioned. New. Cause me to live in Your truth. In You, I am new. Remind me of that today, please. Thank You.

Live blessed, because in Jesus you have been.

John  

Rest, Refreshing and Connection

It’s Sunday, the first day of the week, The Lord’s Day, and I am prompted to send you some challenge and encouragement on how to “Have a great day!” My thoughts break into three parts: Rest, Refreshing and Connection.

Rest. Americans don’t get enough of it. Not only do many of us function habitually “sleep deprived,” we also have no rest. When do you “get away” from the pressures? What do you do for relaxation? When was the last time you did that? I have talked to a number of Christians who live as if they believe God expects them or wants them to live pressed for time and exhausted. They live at a pace which proclaims themselves “indispensible” to God’s mission, although they would deny such a high opinion of themselves if you asked (as Donald Miller explains, we don’t believe what we say we believe, we believe what we do). What happened to following Jesus? The One who did, at times, labor to the point of exhaustion, but who also took advantage of time on the boat for a nap, was to deliberately “get away” to the other side, and Who promised Rest to all the weary ones who come to Him? Perhaps today, on His day, what He would like is for you to spend a couple of hours . . . sleeping!

Refreshing. For me, sleep is often not enough. There are plenty of times I need sleep, but even more than sleep I need refreshing. There is something very invigorating in a change of pace and change of location. I spend a lot of time reading and writing in preparation for classes, so those activities on a Sunday tend to not “bring me life.” It is helpful for me to change my physical surroundings and do something I really enjoy—find a new place by the water to take a walk, drive somewhere and stop to enjoy the view, or spend time looking at stuff and watching people at an outdoor market. Whatever the activity, I trust Jesus to be reminding me that He is with me and to cause me to be grateful. When I see something beautiful, like the sunset above or the clouds here (both caught on my cell phone on different days last weekend), I thank Him. I am reminded again that times of refreshing are in His presence. That is, I am refreshed as I experience the reality that He is with us, and gives us all things to enjoy. What things does Jesus prompt in your mind and heart as you read that you would enjoy and find Refreshing today?

Connection. Speaking of cell phones, they are great tools. Not just a phone, they are now the multimedia connection Steve Jobs envisioned. But all that utility comes at a price beyond dollars. I find myself addicted! Put a pause in my day, after class or after church, and almost immediately I’m checking messages, making calls, checking email, or following a link to somewhere. I confess, I have done it more than once while another person is right there with me (sorry Paula). My connection to the world wide web is interfering with a more important interpersonal connection (and probably robbing me of Rest and Refreshing as well). I read an article recently about “how to take a day off” and one of the recommendations was to turn off your cell phone. I think it’s a good idea: Maybe all day is too drastic for you, but how about for a couple of hours? Maybe Jesus wants you to give that a try today.

I appreciate your taking the time to read this, it’s not all that important what I think (or what you think for that matter). What matters is what Jesus thinks. Why not ask Jesus right now what He thinks about what you need today, then do what He says. Maybe it will be something I suggested, maybe a combination, or maybe something far more adventurous. Go where He leads. Always.

Enjoy Shalom (all of God’s best).

John

 

More Thoughts on Fire

As I was praying about how to share these other thoughts about fire it occurred to me (I won’t say definitively it was the Lord, but I won’t say it wasn’t either) that often what I write is too long. So this one will be fairly short, in the nature of a parable (which has application wherever you are).

The Kingdom of God is like a man wanting to cook five pounds of hamburgers for his friends. He lights a single sheet of newspaper under some briquettes (some old, some new) in his charcoal chimney, and when those coals begin to burn hot, he dumps them on to others in his Weber. When they are all white hot, he adds the grill and cooks the burgers. Then, he welcomes his friends to the table. 

Nobody, wanting to cook five pounds of burgers would separate all the coals, use only one or two briquettes, or not bother first lighting a fire. 

Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

John