2 Corinthians 5

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Photo of the Week – 24 November 2016

Last week we had to make a trip up to Izmir to the US Consulate to renew some of our family’s passports. This journey involved a dolmus (a minibus), a train, and a few kilometers of walking. Thankfully, a dear friend of ours was also in Izmir for the day, and meet us at the train station walked through the process with us and drove us home when it was all said and done.

After our appointment with the Consular Agent, we met back up with our friend at a coffee shop. As we left the coffee shop to head back to his car, we passed a building that looked like a church. There was a wall with a gate around the building, but the gate was open. We noticed a security guard standing there, and asked if we might be able to go in and take a look around. We were told we could.

We learned that we had stumbled upon the Cathedral of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist. This beautiful cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Izmir. It was an amazingly beautiful building and an oasis of peace in the midst of a loud and busy city.

On a day of meeting with ambassadors of a government, entering this chuch reminded me of Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth. It reminded me of how we are ambassadors of the King of Kings. How the church is called to be outposts of the Kingdom in the midst of foreign territory. How we are to proclaim the Gospel (Good News) of the Kingdom in every place and time.

Cathedral of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Izmir, Turkey

Cathedral of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Izmir, Turkey

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (ESV)

 

#Lent14 — Walking In The Path Of Life

As we have done in previous Lent and Advent seasons, we are again blogging our way through the Lenten Lectionary Texts.  In this season, our prayer is that we will bless and inspire you in your walk between the Now and Not-Yet of the Kingdom.  We pray that our meditations will be life-giving to you in your journey.

A reading from the Psalms.

The LORD is my Shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.  He renews my strength.  He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.  Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.  Your rod and staff protect and comfort me.  You prepare a feast before me in the presence of my enemies.  You honor me by anointing my head with oil.  My cup overflows with blessings.  Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Psalm 23 (NLT)

This is the Word of The Lord.

Today’s post originally ran on February 9, 2012.

Our feet take steps.  That’s what they were designed for.  The steps we take compose our path.  Because of the reputation that God has in heaven, because of the fullness of His character, because of the supreme authority that He carries, because of His rank of King of kings and Lord of lords, and because we are His representatives, He guides us in paths of righteousness, so that we have a legal right-standing with God through the blood of Jesus and thereby have a right relationship with God (Psalm 23:3).  We’ve all had guides before that we’ve followed and guides that we’ve ignored while we went and did our own thing.  “Our own thing” is what I’ve been talking with God about today.  My own thing.  My own path.  My own choices.

I can choose to say, “Yes” to God and walk on the path that He has lit for me.  For He — His Word, Jesus — is a light for my feet and a lamp on my path (Psalm 119:105).  He doesn’t tell me where we’re going along the way, but He’s lit enough of my path for me to know where to put my feet down next, and He’s told me to simply follow Him.  He has told me that His path is one of life (Psalm 16:11).

Or, I can choose to ignore God as my guide.  I can choose not to spend the time in His Word with His Word, Jesus, to gain the light I need for my path.  I can let worry or doubt or pride convince me to put my feet down at another place along the way.

No matter which choice I make, I have a lamp to guide me.  The lamp that guides the righteous is Jesus, the Word of God.  The lamp that guides the wicked — haughty eyes and an arrogant heart — is sin (Proverbs 21:4).  So, I can choose light as my lamp or darkness as my lamp.  Those are my two choices, and I don’t have a third choice.  There is the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness.  There is not a Kingdom of “My Own.”  Why is that?  Why can’t I make my own little kingdom somewhere between the light and darkness.  Why can’t I sit on the fence?

I don’t own myself (1 Corinthians 6:19).  I never have owned myself.  I was a slave to sin (Romans 6:6) before the gift of God’s righteous act given through His eternal grace.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave His life as a sacrifice in order to purchase with His blood men and women for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).  I was owned by the Kingdom of Darkness before Christ redeemed me with His precious blood allowing me to enter the Kingdom of Light.  The blood of Jesus has set me free from sin, and I have become a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18).  I have become a slave to God, the benefit I reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life, for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:22-23).

When we leave the path of darkness and came into the path of righteousness, in order to fully receive all that God has for us, we must get rid of everything that possessed and influenced us from the Kingdom of Darkness.  The way that we do this is to die to sin (Romans 6:2), for when we are baptized into Christ Jesus, we are baptized into His death (Romans 6:3).  Our determined purpose is to fully know Christ, progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, that we may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection, and that we may so share in His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness even to His death in the hope that we may attain to the resurrection that lifts us out from among the dead even while in the body (Philippians 3:10-11).  If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection (Romans 6:5).

So will we count ourselves dead to sin to be alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11)?  Rather than offering the parts of our body to sin as instruments of wickedness, we will offer ourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life.  We will offer the parts of our body to Him as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).  In Christ, we are a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

Therefore, why would we want to go back to the path of darkness by choosing to ignore God and choosing not to spend time with Jesus, our lamp on our path?  Let’s continue in the path of righteousness.  Let’s continue saying, “Yes” to God as His Word lights our path.  Let’s continue to follow Him with simple childlike faith, knowing that He leads us in life.

A Shepherd in Antalya Province, Turkey.

A Shepherd in Antalya Province, Turkey.

#Advent13: The Kingdom Looks Like

As we have done in years past, we are again blogging our way through the Advent Lectionary readings.  We love this season as it allows us to take time to slow ourselves down and walk between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It is time for us to live in full knowledge of the “Now” of the Kingdom without rushing the “Not Yet” of the Kingdom.  Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.  Our prayer is that these posts will serve as devotional meditations to focus your heart and mind on the imminent coming of our King!

A reading from the Psalms.

Happy is the one whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. He remains faithful forever, executing justice for the exploited and giving food to the hungry.

The LORD frees prisoners.

The LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The LORD raises up those who are oppressed.

The LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD protects foreigners and helps the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The LORD reigns forever; Zion, your God reigns for all generations. Hallelujah!

—Psalm 146:5-10 (HCSB)

The Word of God for the people of God.

Again, in today’s reading, we’re given a glimpse of the Kingdom. It shows us what it looks like when the King comes. It shows us shalom—nothing missing, nothing broken.

As I read the passages for yesterday in the prayer book that I use (Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro), I was reminded of Jesus’ response to the disciples of John The Baptist in Matthew 11. John’s disciples come and ask Jesus if He is the One for whom they had been waiting. Is He the King? Is He the Messiah?

Jesus replies, “Go back and tell John what’s going on: the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the wretched of the earth learn that God is on their side. Is this what you were expecting? Then count yourselves most blessed!” (Matthew 11:4-6, The Message)

The beauty of the Kingdom is that when the King comes things change.

As we look around at the situations in the world where brokenness and pain seem to reign, we pray “Your Kingdom Come.” Because, we have come to learn that the only thing that can set things right is the Kingdom coming. The only thing that can set the prisoners free, make the blind see, lift up the heads of the oppressed, protect the foreigner, orphan and widows is the Kingdom of God.

That is the message of Advent. Advent is a time where we proclaim to the world that a new King is coming—and with Him comes a new Kingdom!

As we walk to the manger, let us walk with our heads held high in hope. We walk in confidence and joy in the goodness of God. God, who is Creator, has not abandoned His creation. Instead, He has invaded it and in His invasion He re-creates it.

He brings newness.

He brings wholeness.

He fixes what is broken.

He finds what is missing.

And, as His representatives—Ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)—we are called to bring that Kingdom into every place we go. We are called to speak hope and joy and life to every person with whom we have contact. We are called to live differently.

As we walk the remainder of this Advent journey, let us walk with the knowledge that the gifts of Advent—Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love—are not contingent upon external circumstances. Rather, they stand in opposition to external circumstances. Even in the midst of the most messy of conditions, the Kingdom can still come. It can—and does—still emerge.

Our lives—when lived as citizens of this Kingdom—are to be bringers of the Kingdom. Our Psalm today gives us specific ways in which we can introduce the Kingdom to people.

Free the prisoners.

Open the eyes of the blind.

Raise the heads of the oppressed.

Love the righteous.

Protect the foreigners.

Be fathers (and mothers) to the orphans.

Care for the widows.

Proclaim to the world that a new King is coming—and has already come!

—————

326199: Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary RadicalsBy Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove & Enuma Okoro / ZondervanA tapestry of prayer, songs, and liturgy to help today’s diverse Christians pray and worship together! This rich collection makes liturgy “dance”—taking the best of the old and reinvigorating it with fresh energy for contemporary renewal. The music section features over 50 songs from various traditions including African spirituals, traditional hymns, and Taize chants. 512 pages, hardcover from Zondervan.

Walking in Path of Life

A trail at Haupoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

A trail at Haupoca, Chihuahua, Mexico

Our feet take steps.  That’s what they were designed for.  The steps we take compose our path.  Because of the reputation that God has in heaven, because of the fullness of His character, because of the supreme authority that He carries, because of His rank of King of kings and Lord of lords, and because we are His representatives, He guides us in paths of righteousness, so that we have a legal right-standing with God through the blood of Jesus and thereby have a right relationship with God (Psalm 23:3).  We’ve all had guides before that we’ve followed and guides that we’ve ignored while we went and did our own thing.  “Our own thing” is what I’ve been talking with God about today.  My own thing.  My own path.  My own choices.

I can choose to say, “Yes” to God and walk on the path that He has lit for me.  For He — His Word, Jesus — is a light for my feet and a lamp on my path (Psalm 119:105).  He doesn’t tell me where we’re going along the way, but He’s lit enough of my path for me to know where to put my feet down next, and He’s told me to simply follow Him.  He has told me that His path is one of life (Psalm 16:11).

Or I can choose to ignore God as my guide.  I can choose not to spend the time in His Word with His Word, Jesus, to gain the light I need for my path.  I can let worry or doubt or pride convince me to put my feet down at another place along the way.

No matter which choice I make, I have a lamp to guide me.  The lamp that guides the righteous is Jesus, the Word of God.  The lamp that guides the wicked — haughty eyes and an arrogant heart — is sin (Proverbs 21:4).  So I can choose light as my lamp or darkness as my lamp.  Those are my two choices, and I don’t have a third choice.  There is the Kingdom of Light and the Kingdom of Darkness.  There is not a Kingdom of “My Own.”  Why is that?  Why can’t I make my own little kingdom somewhere between the light and darkness.  Why can’t I sit on the fence?

I don’t own myself (1 Corinthians 6:19).  I never have owned myself.  I was a slave to sin (Romans 6:6) before the gift of God’s righteous act given through His eternal grace.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, gave His life as a sacrifice in order to purchase with His blood men and women for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Revelation 5:9).  I was owned by the Kingdom of Darkness before Christ redeemed me with His precious blood allowing me to enter the Kingdom of Light.  The blood of Jesus has set me free from sin, and I have become a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18).  I have become a slave to God, the benefit I reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life, for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:22-23).

When we leave the path of darkness and came into the path of righteousness, in order to fully receive all that God has for us, we must get rid of everything that possessed and influenced us from the Kingdom of Darkness.  The way that we do this is to die to sin (Romans 6:2), for when we are baptized into Christ Jesus, we are baptized into His death (Romans 6:3).  Our determined purpose is to fully know Christ, progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly, that we may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection, and that we may so share in His sufferings as to be continually transformed in spirit into His likeness even to His death in the hope that we may attain to the resurrection that lifts us out from among the dead even while in the body (Philippians 3:10-11, Amplified).  If we have been united with Him like this in His death, we will certainly also be united with Him in His resurrection (Romans 6:5).

So will we count ourselves dead to sin to be alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11)?  Rather than offering the parts of our body to sin as instruments of wickedness, we will offer ourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life.  We will offer the parts of our body to Him as instruments of righteousness (Romans 6:13).  In Christ, we are a new creation: the old has gone, the new has come (2 Corinthians 5:17)!

Therefore, why would we want to go back to the path of darkness by choosing to ignore God and choosing not to spend time with Jesus, our lamp on our path?  Let’s continue in the path of righteousness.  Let’s continue saying, “Yes” to God as His Word lights our path.  Let’s continue to follow Him with simple childlike faith, knowing that He leads us in life.