The New Creation

 

Butterfly caterpillar  monarch-emerging

2 Kings 5:1-14
Psalm 30
Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16
Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

 

When a caterpillar attaches itself to a leaf and forms a chrysalis, it begins a transformation that results in a butterfly. It is a new creation, one over which the caterpillar has no control.

The new creation for humans involves a choice. We live in a world of our own making in that humans introduced sin and sin has corrupted the entire universe. If we want to avoid the consequences of this bad choice, we must make a new choice, namely, to stop sinning and do good.

Paul Tillich in The New Being, said it this way: What is this New Being? Paul answers first by saying what it is not. Circumcision is a religious rite, observed by the Jews; sacrifices are religious rites, observed by the pagans; baptism is a religious rite, observed by the Christians. All these rites do not matter—only a New Creation. No religion matters—only a new state of things. What it says first is that Christianity is more than a religion; it is the message of a New Creation.

There are great religions beside Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and the remnants of classical Judaism; they have their myths and their rites—so to speak their “circumcision”—which gives each of them their distinction. There are the secular movements: Fascism and Communism, Secular Humanism, and Ethical Idealism. They try to avoid myths and rites; they represent, so to speak, uncircumcision.

How shall Christianity face them? Shall Christianity tell them: Come to us, we are a better religion, our kind of circumcision or uncircumcision is higher than yours? [Paul] says, No particular religion matters, neither ours nor yours. But I want to tell you that something has happened that matters, something that judges you and me, your religion and my religion. A New Creation has occurred, a New Being has appeared; and we are all asked to participate in it.

We have a choice. We can remain the caterpillar, munching away on the poisonous milkweed, or we can choose to become a new being. Our biggest problem is that we like the milkweed too much. It is a tough habit to break, especially since we have to live in the land of milkweed.

It took Naaman a while to make that choice. It took time for the disciples, even after witnessing the power of the Holy Spirit as people were healed and demons were defeated.

I cannot call myself a Follower of Christ until I become a New Being in Christ.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

I Will Not Leave You

June 26, 2016

 

2 Kings 2:1-2, 6-14
Psalm 77:1-2, 11-20
Galatians 5:1, 13-25
Luke 9:51-62

 

As I write this post, the President has just visited Hiroshima to express his wish that the world would eliminate atomic war. Neither he nor any other President or government official has apologized for using the bomb, while Japan has made at least fifty-two apologies regarding their conduct in the war.

What does the news story have to do with today’s scripture?

It has to do with what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called The Cost of Discipleship. Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting to-day for costly grace…. Costly grace … calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. Macmillan Paperback, 1963

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of GodNIV A hard saying, one we Christians have been wiggling around for years. This was Jesus’ response to the man who said, first let me go back and say goodbye to my familyNIV In fact, the man was quoting the Scripture: Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother good-by, and then I will come with youNIV But Jesus said, no, follow.

In fairness, Jesus did not demand that of everyone. We know that Andrew, Simon, James, and John retained their fishing boats and continued to have crews working them. Jesus does not call us to stop living, just to stop living selfish lives.

As Paul tells us: if you act like wild animals, hurting and harming each other, then watch out, or you will completely destroy one anotherGNT And that brings us back to the current events at Hiroshima. Do we as a nation need to apologies for using the Bomb? Or for that matter, for our fire-bombing Tokyo, a holocaust that killed over 100,000 people?

President Truman attended church the Sunday following Hiroshima and listened to a sermon sharply critical of the decision to drop the Bomb, Truman’s decision. In typical Truman fashion, he shook hands with the pastor at the door and thanked him for a fine sermon. Truman saw it as a way to save lives, and most military experts have agreed over the years. I agree with that assessment.

Yet: The Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. GNT Jesus expects us to give up killing people.

But we know war is forced on us at times. We know that Christians from the first century to today have fought wars. Jesus does not give us an out. He does not say there is such a thing as a holy war. War is wrong. So, are we to allow mass executions, brutal occupations, rape, torture, etc., without doing anything to stop it?

The only possible answer is that we fight as Christians. How?

Basically, we should follow the same rules we try to impose on our police; meet force with the minimum force needed. Always respect the others. Do not do what I would not want the others to do to me.

In practical terms: no placing bombs on children, or where innocents might be hit. No widespread gas attacks, encourage surrender, no torture, etc.

But most of all, we must always apologize, because hurting others is not right; not ever.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Where Is Your God?

Unsplash
Unsplash

1 Kings 19:1-4, (5-7), 8-15a
Psalm 42 and 43
Galatians 3:23-29
Luke 8:26-39

 

As a doe longs

            for running streams,

So longs my soul

            for you, my God.

My soul thirsts for God,

            the God of life;

When shall I go to see

            the face of God?

I have no food but tears,

            day and night;

And all day long men say to me,

            ‘Where is your God?’ NJB

 

 

That last line has been the lament down through time. “Where is God.” “How can God allow this to happen?” “Why doesn’t God speak to me?”

Consider Elijah. A man God could depend on to speak the Word. A man so favored by God that he was taken into Heaven without dying. To this day, at Passover a chair is set out for Elijah, should he decide to visit. Many in Jesus’ day believed Elijah would return to be the Messiah.

Yet, that same Elijah, got up and fled for his lifeCJB This great man of God who stood before the rich and powerful speaking the Word, This Elijah told God, I have had enough, Lord. Take my life. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too. NIV

Fear is part of being human; a part of being human in this world. If we lived in Heaven standing next to God, we would know no fear. Imagine walking through a strange land at night, but having two well-trained lions as body guards. With God beside us, what is there to fear?

The man possessed by demons gives us a different image of the presence of God. We tend to stress the exorcism of this story, but Jesus seems unimpressed. Please note his words: No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for youNLT What Jesus said is, God can cast out a thousand demons with as much effort as it takes to blink an eye; why ask where God is, he is here and he cares about you.

The skeptic will point out that if God really cared, he would not allow the man to be possessed. Jesus would say, God is willing to suffer the pain of a parent who must watch his children make wrong choices. God does that because He wants us to choose to love only Him. He knows that some will not, and He weeps for them. Even with all the bad things that happen to us, God loves us. Even when we turn away from Him, He loves us. We are free to choose.

All baptized in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in ChristNJB As many of you as were immersed into the Messiah have clothed yourselves with the MessiahCJB All of you who were baptised “into” Christ have put on the family likeness of ChristPhillips Or, in the literal Greek: For as many as into Christ were baptized, put on ChristNovum Testamentum Graece

Putting on Christ does not mean we become Christ, only that we can face our fears with more confidence, knowing that God is with us, and His lions walk beside us in the dark.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

God’s Gift

© Jinyoung Lee | Dreamstime Stock Photos
© Jinyoung Lee | Dreamstime Stock Photos

1 Kings 21:1-10, (11-14), 15-21a
Psalm 5:1-8
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36-8:3

 

Is Osama Bin Laden in Heaven?

The answer, of course, depends on our religious beliefs, or lack of. Christian answers would run from “No” to “Maybe,” but few, if any, would say “Yes.”

What would Jesus answer? After all, he is the one who makes the decision.

We cannot know the answer, but we must admit that it is possible. Look at the case of Ahab. He was so bad that God Himself said: (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.) NIV

Even though it was Jezebel who arranged for the murder of Naboth, it was Ahab’s responsibility. God sent Elijah to deliver the curse: This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours! NIV

Having read about Ahab and Jezebel, most of us are rooting for the dogs; they were BAD.

However,

Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day. NIV

What was God thinking?

He may have had the words of Jesus in mind: I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great loveNJB I like the stress of this translation. She was able to show love because she was forgiven. How often do we forget that we are sinners, forgiven sinners? How often do we think like Simon the Pharisee, that she is a sinner and we are not?

We do not want to forget to read the last verses of the Gospel assignment for today, for in it we learn that: Yeshua traveled about from town to town and village to village, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of GodCJB The Good News. The Good News that God is the God of Mercy. The Good News that the God of Mercy has forgiven our sins. The Good News that God loves us so much He is willing to allow sinners to enter into His presence.

I do not reject God’s gracious gift; for if the way in which one attains righteousness is through legalism, then the Messiah’s death was pointlessCJB

 

Be righteous and do good.

How Can I Know Jesus Is Real?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

1 Kings 17:8-24
Psalm 146
Galatians 1:11-24
Luke 7:11-17

 

As we read last Sunday, everyone must choose between God and Baal. There is no middle ground. To put it another way, I either support God or the Father of Lies.

Today, we have three accounts of God resurrecting the dead: two of the sons of widows and Saul who was dead to the Truth of God.

Saul was a special case in that he was the rising star among Jewish leadership. He studied with the best and learned the scripture as few others ever had. His mind was filled with the words of God, yet he lacked the Word of God. Still, God knew the young man would be perfect for the ministry to non-Jews, so He sent His Son to make him an offer he could not refuse.

In all fairness, Saul believed in God and was dedicated to God. That was not the change that occurred on the Damascus road. Saul needed to meet Jesus/Son of God face to face. He needed to understand that Jesus was the promised Messiah. More importantly, he needed to understand that the Messiah did not come to the Jews only.

As the Psalmist put it: He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow. NIV

Saul believed that applied to Jews only. Jesus said, no, everyone.

So, how does this help me believe in Jesus and God?

We have thousands of years of human witnesses who have encountered God, who have seen and believed. Elijah who calmly believed God would feed the widow and save the son. Jesus, in the presence of a large crowd, saw a widow and remembered the words of his Father to aid the widows and orphans. Without asking anything from the woman, not even a statement of faith, he asked God to return the son to the living. Paul, who used his own wrong headedness to show the power of God.

It is not possible to prove God, but it is possible to show the presence of God in our lives. We so easily see sin, but find it difficult to see Truth.

There is one more important passage from the Psalms: Do not put your trust in princes,
in human beings, who cannot save
NIV

Governments are human inventions and they cannot save us. Some can help us live more comfortable lives, but that has little to do with our real lives. The only life that matters is the life lived to help others.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence