Transformed

Ephesians 4 24
My guilty pleasure shows, the ones I watch on those rare occasions when I am home by myself and have nothing to do (or at least would like to put off what I am suppose to do), are restaurant makeover shows.  It doesn’t matter the title, the host, or the characters.  I am sucked into the identical plot over and over again. A failing entrepreneur invites a celebrity chef into their restaurant to help them become more successful.  Initially, they admit that minor changes are in order, but don’t see any major cause for concern.  The business owner’s management is flawless. The food is great.  The decor could be updated. Just a tweak here and there and efforts will move from futile to flourishing.  And then celebrity chef gives the reality check (in a varyingly dramatic way).  He/she tells them the decor is dismal, the food is frightful, and by far the most monstrous piece that brings each element together is the mismanagement.  Yet the owners who willingly invited the chef into their restaurant, who have seen this play out on different channels, seasons, and time slots, express shock.  They shake their heads and fingers.  “Not us!” they say. “We are different!” they say. “We only invited you here because we thought we only needed small changes!” they say.

It is hard to accept the jarring reality that we’re terrible. That the entirety of everything we have accomplished for ourselves is considered a heap of filthy rags (Isa 64:6).  Our corrupted (Eph 4:22) business-as-usual model is rubbish, garbage, doo doo.  You don’t need to drop a couple items off the menu; you need a new menu.  You don’t need to gloss over the interior with a new color; you need some serious demolition work.  Most of all, you are not one or two adjustments away from being an excellent entrepreneur; you need a new manager. A major overhaul is in order, not a minor adjustment.  In order to do this Christian life, you must face there is a thread that tethers most of your issues:  you making the decisions.  Conversely, there is a simple solution to overcome challenges and have meaningful and lasting change: follow the model of Christ.  Less us, more Christ until we are gone, and there is only Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20

The Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18). Man, oh man – it is so hard to read his story because it hits so close to home. He invited Christ into his life to look at what He had accomplished because he had a pretty good thing going.  He thought he only needed a quick makeover. Then Jesus delivered some nauseating news to this guy: “You still lack one thing: Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”  “Not me!” he thought. “I am different!” he thought. “I only invited you here because we thought we only needed small changes!” he sadly thought and walked away from Christ.  Had he not heard this requirement from Jesus already?  Matt 6:19-24 Luke 12:23; Or read about them in the law he kept? Deuteronomy 8:8-10; Psalm 62:10; Proverbs 11:28

Christ doesn’t call us to a simple makeover or even a renovation.  Our response cannot be accomplished by purchasing a new Bible, hitting up church camp, signing up for a mission trip, going to a Bible college, following commandments, or doing good works.  All of those things are beneficial, but they will not lead to lasting, permanent change – said by someone who has done ALL of those things.  TRANSFORMATION is literally changing (trans-) our very form (uh, form).  Tearing down the structure, ripping the very foundation from the earth, and then replacing it with a new foundation – our Cornerstone, Jesus Christ. THEN we seek our Chef, Architect, and Father for the new plan for our life.  For some of us, God may have used His infinite plan to provide us with the tools to build with for His glory or repurpose some pieces from the rubble, but more likely than not, we may be called to do something completely new, difficult, and can only be accomplished with a new creation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! Do not conform to 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.” 1 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 12:2

TRANSFORMATION is not ours in a single day.  It begins with the decision to demo, but is a lifelong, day-by-day challenge to change not only the way we act, but our very mindset that allows us to test and approve what God’s will is for our lives. When we transform our thinking, health, sickness, wealth, poverty, where we live, what college we attend, our occupation, our family, persecution, what we eat or drink, and even death are not our simple circumstance but tools at the disposal of our God.  Every moment, every action becomes an opportunity to spread His good news of a coming Kingdom to begin the radical change in the hearts of others.  Ultimately, we have a great hope in the struggle of living a transformed life now.  Our lives will be transformed once-and-for-all, not over the course of a lifetime, but in a single instance – In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Cor 15:52,53).  It all begins today with listening and looking to the one who has already accomplished it.

-Aaron Winner

The Dark Side – and God’s Side

2 Timothy 3

 

2Tim3 1617 (1)

The first half of this chapter paints a rather bleak picture of thriving human sinfulness.  “Lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.  … who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth“  (2 Timothy 3:2-5, 6b-7).  That’s a pretty good list of nastiness.  And it hits so many types of people: the materialistic, the teen rebel, the violent criminal, the power-hungry politician, the educated professor who denies God.

 

And sometimes, it hits me, too.  I can be proud – especially when I think I am right, but “they” are wrong.  I can be ungrateful – to God and to those who have given of their time and talents for me.  Sometimes love does not shine through me.  I don’t always exercise self-control and bite my tongue when I ought.  Too often I have chosen loving pleasure over loving God – watching one more episode and then suddenly “too tired” to read His Word.

 

It is so easy to point the finger at evil and the dark side around us.  And, definitely DO be aware of its prevalent influence in the world so you don’t unknowingly get sucked up in it yourself.  But carefully watch yourself as well.  Where do you need to work so you reflect more God and less world?

 

In the second half of this chapter Paul flips to writing on the light/Godly side of things.  He speaks of his own life – his purpose, teaching, faith, and love as well as persecutions and suffering (3:10,11).   This bed of roses indeed comes with many thorns.  He writes, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (3:12).  Because of the wickedness and deception in the world (see verses 1-9), Christians must expect and be prepared for many trials when they are actually acting like and following Christ.

 

But, don’t give up says Paul!  “Continue in what you have learned and what you have become convinced of…the holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation”.  Who couldn’t use more wisdom for salvation??  Sign me up!  I am ready for more wisdom that leads to salvation.  I saw in the first half of this chapter my own darker side.  I am in need of more and more wisdom for salvation.  And, that is found in God’s Holy Scriptures.

 

But, that’s not all!   There’s more good found in God’s Word.   For, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (3:16).  Here is the key to standing against the evil in the world and in myself – God’s Word!  He breathed it for me.  He breathed it for you.  And it is useful, over and over again, every time it is opened.  It gives wisdom for salvation, it teaches, it rebukes (which I do indeed need from time to time), it corrects, and it trains me to be righteous (which I always need).

 

But, there is still more!  With God’s Word we can be, “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (3:17).  Do you long to do good works for Him – open His Word.  Are you discouraged by the evil of the world – open His Word.   Are you ready to be wise for salvation – open His Word.  Breath in what God breathed out for you.

 

Marcia Railton

Painful Growth Rewarded

Gen 15 13,14

Moses: Introduction and backdrop

 

Hey i’m Chris Mattison and I would like to take this week to look at Moses and his incredible life story. First, though I would like to take today to look at the situation into which Moses was born.

 

God had made a covenant with Abraham that his descendants would be numerous and would inhabit the promised land (Genesis 15).  In this promise God did tell Abraham that his people would have to leave to a strange land and be enslaved for 400 years, but that they would return to their own land.  As we know countries do not like to have foreigners moving into their land, so God moved Joseph into place as the right hand of Pharaoh so that he could guide the nation through a seven year famine and so that he could provide a place of protection inside of Egypt for the Israelites (Genesis 45:8-11).  As they continued to live in Egypt they prospered and grew in numbers so much that the Egyptians became worried that they would pose a threat to them someday so the Egyptians enslaved the Israelite people. Through all of this their numbers continued to grow as their nation was being painfully incubated inside the protection of Egypt (Exodus 1:8-14).

 

It is difficult to form a new nation in the ancient world because groups always intermarry with those around them and we see this as a major issue for the Israelites for the rest of the Old Testament, and later on God uses the laws and customs that he gives them to keep them separate and unique, but at this time God uses their enslavement to keep them as a single coherent nation of people.  This is maybe one of the most “tough love” ways to keep a promise.

 

During this time the Israelites began to forget about God’s promise and to worship the gods of the Egyptians, because in their minds those gods must be more powerful if the Egyptians are more powerful than them.

 

God’s people always seem to thrive in adversity.  In the early church the numbers of Christians continued to grow even though they were being fed to lions for spectator sport and were being persecuted in every manner imaginable.    Today in areas like China where Christianity is viewed as a threat to the government and is actively repressed the number of Christians is estimated to be around 30 Million and growing rapidly.

 

Maybe you feel like your faith in Christ has set you apart and alienated you from your friends, and that is probably very difficult for you to deal with.  Following Christ means dying to self and maybe that means you have to die to your social group and put up with some ridicule and rejection from society. It can be easy to be worn down by the world and give in and start following the gods of society, and many people do that.  But we need to have endurance to run the race to the end (2 Timothy 4:7).

-Chris Mattison

It’s Not Fair! But It’s a Great Gift!

matt 20 13 15

Matthew 20

In Matthew 20, Jesus gives a parable about a man who went to hire servants to work in his vineyard. He hired one worker at 9:00am, another around noon, a third at about 3:00pm, and a final servant around 5:00pm. At the end of the day, he gave them all the wages that he had promised to them. However, the first worker was very upset that the last worker got the same amount of money that he had gotten (I’m sure we would react the same way).

The point that Jesus is trying to make in this parable is that, no matter how long you have been following Christ, you will all get the same reward in the end. Now, that may be troubling for some, but it is important to remember that none of us deserve the gift of immortal life (Romans 6:23). We need to be appreciative of the fact that we will inherit immortal life because of Christ, and not be mad that somebody else didn’t “put as much work into it” as we have. Anyone at any time can accept Christ before he comes back, and have the same reward.

The challenge today for you is to offer this gift to somebody else that has not accepted Christ as their Savior. Don’t allow them to say, “It’s too late for me”; it does not matter when you believe the gospel. The most important thing is that you just believe. Offer the gift of salvation to someone today; you just may save their life.

-Talon Paul