A Job to Do

2 Corinthians 5

2 Corinthians 5 19

 

I recently watched Finding Hope Now (also more recently titled Streets of Hope) based on the true story of the ministry of Roger Minassian and his book Gangs to Jobs: Faith-Based Gang Intervention for Your City.  At 53 Roger left his comfortable pastorate to create a ministry to gang members (something he knew nothing about at the time – except that they needed help – even though they often didn’t want it).  I won’t share too much about the movie because I hope you see it for yourself.  But at one point a gang member is before a judge who has the power to convict the young man for crimes he did commit and deliver him to a punishment he did deserve.  But, Roger was there at the teen’s side – even though this kid had personally caused Roger much personal pain, heartache and property damage.  Roger was speaking for the troubled teen.  Telling the judge of the change he saw – the old was gone, the new had come.  Roger was deep in the ministry of reconciliation – both to reconcile this young man with the court system and his community – as well as to reconcile him to God.  Now, you have to watch the movie to see what happened next.

 

Reconciliation is “the restoration of friendly relations”.  And, the world is much in need of it – particularly as it pertains to restoring a relationship with God.  Paul says it best here:

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.                   (2 Corinthians 5:17-21 . NIV)

 

 

God seeks restoration and “friendly relationships” with His creation.  So much so that He sent His sinless Son to carry our sins to the cross so we could become new, righteous creations who could draw near to God.  Previously our mountain of baggage and sins we were carrying was keeping us from embracing God.  But God made a way for us to set it all down – at the foot of the cross.  Because Jesus spoke for us God is not holding our sins against us – if we are in Christ – and have asked for forgiveness, accepted Jesus as Lord, been baptized to demonstrate the putting off of the old self, and are living a life of obedience.

 

If you aren’t there yet – in Christ – why not?  “We implore you on Christ’s behalf.  Be reconciled to God.” (vs. 20).  Please talk to your pastor or Sunday School teacher or youth group leader or Godly parents or me.  You don’t have to wait until you are perfect or you know the whole Bible – none of us Christians fall into either of those categories.  You just need to be ready to put the old behind.  Drop the junk you are holding onto, accept the sacrifice the Son made for you as he was speaking to his Dad for you and put on a new friendly relationship with God.  Be reconciled to God.

 

If you are there – in Christ – Congratulations!  Best choice ever!   Daily enjoy that friendly relationship with God that was opened for you by Christ.  And, get to work – you have a job to do!

 

“God has committed/given to us, the ministry/message of reconciliation.” (vs. 18 and 19).  Saying it once wasn’t enough for Paul.  So, I will repeat it, too.  “God has committed/given to us, the ministry/message of reconciliation. (vs. 18 and 19)”.  Do it!

 

If you’ve got the priceless gift of reconciliation with God through His Son – give it to others.  It won’t subtract what you have, but it will only multiply as you follow God’s command.   Maybe you will bring the message to gang members and in the process save a whole town!  Maybe you will boldly speak to a neighbor, family member, friend, co-worker, or church youth and be instrumental in that priceless person’s decision to be reconciled to God.  And all of heaven will rejoice with you.  Pray for God to show you where to start – and then start!

 

People are listening.  People are looking for hope in a hurting world.  Yesterday my heart hurt to hear of a girl in Malaysia who posted an Instagram poll – should she live or die?  Tears are falling as I type that she received a 69% response to die – and she took her own life.

 

The enemy is alive and well and we have a job to do!   Spread life and hope and reconciliation.  You won’t convince everyone.  Paul didn’t.  Roger didn’t.  But they did change lives because of their ministry of reconciliation.  And, we can, too.  People need reconciliation with God – even if they don’t know it yet.  How will you share it?

 

In Christ and Reconciled With a Job to Do,

Marcia Railton

What are You Waiting For?

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9_27 28

Good morning!

Today’s chapter starts off with some details about how the tabernacle was set up.  It gives some great descriptions of exactly what it would look like and makes it very tangible for readers.  I love the little aside that the author gives at the end of verse 5 when they write “But we cannot discuss these things in detail now.”  It makes me smile because I imagine someone who is so excited about sharing everything they have with the Hebrews, but has to contain themselves because they know they have more important things to discuss.

Now on to the “more important” things!  At this point people would’ve known what priests had to do when going into the Most Holy Place and recognized the sacrifice that was required.  The author here is giving the background information for the rest of the message to show the significance of Christ.  It is explained that priests no longer had to go to a place made by humans that required continuing sacrifice of animals for forgiveness; Christ was able to enter the Most Holy Place by one sacrifice to obtain eternal redemption (vs. 11-12).  This would’ve been a big deal in this time!

Verse 14 and 15 are great verses to meditate on for this chapter!  “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ… cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” What a great verse to give us some perspective!  We have a Savior who offered himself as a completely perfect sacrifice ONE TIME for the redemption of our sins that should’ve led to death.  And why? So that we can not only serve the living God, but also so that we can be set free from our sins and receive eternal inheritance (vs. 15).  That is simply amazing, friends!

There is so much more in this chapter that we could really unpack, but I don’t need to write a whole book so we’ll finish off with the final verses 😊

When we look at verse 27 there are two really big pieces that we need to recognize.  The first is in verse 27 which reads “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment…” This key factor on the morality of humans is one of the many reasons Christianity differs from other religions.  Here it says that people get one life to live, they die one time, and after will face judgment.  The second piece shows me that people have a lifetime to seek forgiveness for their sins.  It doesn’t say that we will face judgement after we do that one really bad sin, or that by the time we reach a certain age, etc.  We will face judgment after death.  With that in mind, we aren’t all guaranteed a long lifetime to seek that forgiveness.  Are you living each day as if you could be judged the next moment?  Are you continually serving the living God and asking for forgiveness when you fall short?  Those can be some sobering questions to ask yourself.

Finally, in verse 28, we get a glimpse of that hope we have.  “…And he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  Jesus is coming again!  I want to be one of those who are waiting for him, and I hope you all do too!  Today, how can your actions, thoughts, words, and choices reflect that you are waiting on Jesus’ return?  Or, how can you encourage a brother or sister in Christ and remind them of his second coming?

-Sarah Blanchard

 

Three Deep Breaths

PROVERBS 29

Proverbs 29-11

When reading Proverbs 29, I caught onto a theme of how to handle anger and frustration.  Verse 8 says that the wise turn away anger.  Verse 11 reads that the wise bring calm whereas the fool vents his rage.  Verse 20 instructs us not to speak in haste, verse 22 tells us that angry and hot-tempered people stir up conflict and commit many sins, and verse 23 warns against pride, which is often a precursor to anger and argument.

We all encounter trying situations.  We all have tense moments in which we want to scream into a pillow or go for a run or do whatever helps us to cool off.  Proverbs 29 instructs us to keep a cool head and turn away from anger.  I remember a scene from a movie or television show (although for the life of me, I can’t remember the source) in which a character is stressing out.  Another character instructs her to take 3 deep breaths, saying that in the time it takes to complete those 3 breaths, she will stop herself from doing or saying anything she may later regret.

At some point or another, we all get angry.  In these times, it is important to know how God instructs us to handle ourselves.  I had a classmate in college who would pray for the class before every exam.  She always ended her prayers by asking the Lord to keep us calm, cool, and collected during the stress of the exam.  Three deep breaths.  Calm, cool, and collected.  When on the verge of having an outburst, remember to be the wise man and bring calm.  Be wise and turn away anger.  Don’t speak in haste.  Lean on the Lord and His teachings, even in tense moments.  Three deep breaths allows for enough time to reflect back on these verses.

-Megan Bryant

Confession Time

PROVERBS 28

Proverbs 28-18

Verses 13-28 examine the fates of the wicked compared to the righteous.  Verse 13 reads, “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”  In which camp would you routinely place yourself?  Are there certain parts of our lives that we are quick to share if we sin or fall short, but others that we conceal for the sake of reputation or fear of conflict or avoidance of the consequences?  This verse doesn’t specify between transgressions; whoever conceals his sins will not prosper.  Confessing before the Lord and all other necessary parties brings mercy and an opportunity for growth.  Are there specific wrongs in your life that need to come into the light?  We all have room for growth, and we should ask the Lord to reveal to us our shortcomings.  John 15:2 reads, “Every branch that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”  Even our fruitful endeavors need pruning.

 

I would encourage you to pray about your transgressions.  Admit to yourself and the Lord that you have sins, not that you just make mistakes or have oversights.  Ask for help in renouncing and repenting of these shortcomings, and actually try to follow through in walking away from whatever you have been keeping in the dark.  Don’t just make a quick promise, but deliberately seek righteousness.

 

-Megan Bryant

Consequences for Evil Overflow

Ezekiel 20-21

ezek 20-17

Friday, March 24

In Ezekiel 20 God reviews Israel’s history.  Over and over God provided for His people, over and over He warned them to get rid of their idols, keep His commands and observe His Sabbaths.  Over and over Israel failed to obey God and experienced the consequences.  Over and over God was compassionate and loving and forgave His people and restored them to blessings.

Israel has repeated this history again.  They failed to get rid of idols, they failed to keep his commands and observe his Sabbaths, and now they were about to experience the consequences of their sins.  God would once again treat them with mercy, not as their sins deserved and restore them to their land.

Ezekiel juxtaposes God’s promise to be merciful and restore His people with the threat that His judgment is coming and that both the evil and the good will be cut off from the land and the city and the temple.  Yes, everyone will suffer the consequences of the evil behavior of some.

There is tension throughout Ezekiel.  The wicked will suffer for their sins and the righteous will not suffer, except that at first they will suffer for the sins of others.  Sometimes when God brings his judgment designed to bring people to repentance there is collateral damage.  Good people suffer when bad people sin.  It’s how it was then, it’s still how it is today.  God’s salvation is coming, earth will one day be restored and made whole and good, but in the meantime, good people will suffer alongside the wicked.  Christians are martyred in places like Pakistan and Syria.  Christians sometimes suffer persecution in the United States.  Trials may come to God’s people during times of judgment, but those who trust God and repent of their sins will be saved.

-Jeff Fletcher

(photo credit: http://w3ace.com/stardust/scripture/verse/Ezekiel_20:17)