Tag Archives: being made new

Open your mind to new life – Luke 24

8 Apr

New-Life-And-OldLast week I asked “Is there only bad news in a broken world?

This past Sunday I had some help from the elementary age kids (and some of you older “kids”!) in trying to answer that question.  Becka, our worship leader, drew large a large picture of planet earth, and as I mentioned the bad news out there in the world today, I ripped up the globe into pieces.  It can feel like ours is a shredded world.  I talked about how the disciples following Jesus just had their world ripped to pieces.  Their leader had been arrested, beaten, falsely tried, and killed.  They could easily be next!  So I handed out the ripped pieces of the world, and asked the kids to color them brightly, and I continued with the story.

On the third day those same distraught disciples started hearing very strange news.  Good news.  But so good it was unbelievable.  They heard their Lord was alive!  As the days wears on, their excitement builds as he shows up to meet with a few of them.   Finally, he appears at the place where they were all together.  After getting over their initial shock, he gets down to the business of sorting this all out for them.

You can read about it in Luke 24:44-49. You can see their lights going on, or as Luke says in verse 45, “he opened their minds,” so they could understand that the Scriptures they had heard all their lives going to worship at synagogue now found fulfillment in him. He was the promised Savior, the Messiah. But he was a very different Savior than what they expected. The prevailing idea of the day was of a military Messiah who would remove the Romans from their land.

Jesus wasn’t a king with a sword on a warhorse. Instead, he was the one who would save the world from the penalty of sin. Forgiveness is possible. Repentance is possible. New life is possible. Just as he rose from the dead to new life, so they and you and I can have new life. As he taught them many times, it was not just a promise of eternal life in heaven with him after death. Life after death is good news! It was certainly that. But it was not just that. He also offers to us the possibility of abundant life now.

We Christians often sit back and shake our fingers, saying “What is wrong with the world today?”

The great writer G. K. Chesterton was reading the paper once and came to the editorial section. The editors of the paper asked readers to answer that very question. “What is wrong with the world today?” He knew he needed to respond. So he wrote a letter to the editor. Probably the shortest letter in the history of letters to the editor: “What is wrong with the world?” Chesterton’s response was two words: “I am.”

As long as we just sit back and talk, we are what is wrong with the world. New life means we are changed, and we share that victory with the world.  We are to be the good news in the world. New life in Christ starts by changing our hearts, and then we share that new life in as many ways possible.

As we were talking about this passage a few weeks ago at our sermon roundtable Bible study, one person told the story about a woman who was driving behind him way too close in a big old car. And he got angry. He thought, if she stops, I’m going to give her a piece of my mind. And then he thought “I don’t want to live like that…so angry.” He said that he needs that hope, that awareness of what Jesus has done for me.  When we remember that our sins are forgiven, we can and should repent of our sins and take on the new life of Christ.  Abundant life is a life that turns away from sin.

One of the first followers of Jesus who would come along a bit later, a guy named Paul, said in the letter he wrote to the church in the city of Ephesus that we are not alone in this abundant life.  Instead God wants to help us change.  Take a look:

I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.

Did you hear that? The same power that rose Jesus from the dead to new life is available to us! That is Good News. Jesus’ new life means there is hope for our lives to be made new!

He wants to make the world new. At that point in the sermon, the kids brought their newly colored ripped pieces of the world put the picture of the world back together.

In the same way, when you follow Jesus, know that he wants to make you new, to put your life back together.

Many of you know I really enjoy the band U2.   Their lead singer, Bono, was recently asked about Jesus and new life, and I like what he had to say:

Do you need some good news? The message of Easter is that new life is possible in Jesus. Your sins can be forgiven. Repent of your sin, believe in him, and ask God to give you his resurrection power to make your life new. That is good news. That is news worth searching for. God gave to give us an abundant life – not an easy life, not a cut and dry life – but an abundant life. Life to the fullest. Life lived in community with one another and with an all-loving, gracious, giving God. We have access to a New Life.

Our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with the resurrection.
Watchman Nee

Resurrection NOW

23 Apr

resurrectionIn 2nd Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes to the Christians in the Roman city of Corinth: “If anyone is in Christ, he is new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.”  What he means is what I said in last week’s sermon intro post: we can be, and in fact we need to be, resurrected now, before we die.

On Easter Sunday, we looked at what Paul says in 1st Corinthians 15 about resurrection.  At the beginning Paul reminds them of the good news that he preached to them. Good News is often called gospel. That’s what “gospel” means? “Good News”.

The amazing good news is that there is no one that cannot be reached. There is resurrection hope for everyone…NOW!

But what is the scope of that resurrection hope?  Like I said last week, just pie in the sky when we die?  So often churches and Christians through ages have talked about the good news as salvation from hell.  No doubt that is good news!  Resurrection means we have hope of rising from the dead as Jesus did, so that we can be with him.  But what we see in the pages of the New Testament is that God is very much concerned about the situation of our lives NOW.

The shocking good news that the resurrection tells us is that we can begin to live the new life of Christ now.

The old has gone, the new has come.  The words are in in the present tense.  We can be changed NOW.

I think this is what is so powerful about the words that Paul shared in the verses that we studied a week ago. Remember what he said in 1st Corinthians 6:11?

After listing a bunch of vices, he says “that is what some of you were!”

You were changed.

Think about the junk of your life. God wants to lift you up out of that and help you experience his abundant life now.
This new abundant life gives us the idea of Jesus’ kingdom come now. Like he taught us to pray in the Lord’s prayer: Your kingdom come, your will be done, on EARTH as it is in heaven!

One way to understand this concept is to see that the resurrection so changes us that we make it our life’s passion to usher in the Kingdom now, in all its various forms.  This is why we as a church have given so much time and attention to the needs of our community. Serving the poor through CVCCS. We want them to understand that God’s Kingdom matters now, that resurrection is available now!  I love seeing the display in our building’s lobby, asking people to donate items for the food and clothing bank. I am so proud of Faith Church for having Church Has Left The Building Sundays where one Sunday per year, instead of having a worship service in our sanctuary, we the church leave the building and worship by serving the community. We want them to see that God’s Kingdom matters now, that resurrection is available now.

And so we need to be resurrected now. When we trust in Christ, when we believe in him as the savior of our sins, when we give our lives to follow him, he tells us that we are being made new, right now.  Do you need to be resurrected now? I’d love to talk with you.

Guest Post: Origin stories, superheroes and what defines us

17 Oct

Today’s guest post comes to us from Lisa Bartelt whose blog Living Echoes chronicles her journey as a wife, mother of two, writer and avid reader.  The Bartelts moved to Lancaster a few months ago, and have quickly become part of the family of Faith Church.  Lisa’s husband, Phil, is an EC Pastor and part of the Faith Church teaching team.   

Phil and I like to unwind by watching television, and one of our new favorite shows is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a comic-book spinoff of the popular Avengers movies and characters. A couple of weeks ago, the show featured the “origin story” of a villain I’d never heard of. The promo for the show was “every villain has an origin story.”

What little I know of comic books and their characters, I know that the origin story is true for the heroes and the villains. According to Wikipedia, it’s the “back story revealing how a character or team gained their superpowers and/or the circumstances under which they became superheroes or supervillains.”

Bruce Wayne sees his parents murdered by a mugger and becomes Batman to root out crime in Gotham City. Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider and gains spider-like powers, which he uses to fight crime to alleviate the guilt he feels for his uncle’s death. Doctor Bruce Banner becomes the Incredible Hulk through exposure to gamma rays and transforms into the raging green monster whenever he’s angry. And on and on and on. (Check out Wikipedia’s “origin story” entry for more.)

But you don’t have to be a superhero (or a supervillain) to have an origin story. We all have moments, good and bad, that contributed to who we are today. You know your origin story. Does anyone else?

On Sunday, Phil and I will pick up where Joel left off with the second part of our Stories of Restoration mini-series. You’ve seen us at church for the past three months. You’ve met our kids, Izzy and Corban. You’ve heard Phil preach.

But you don’t know our story. Yet.

We’ll tell you about the moments that shaped us individually, and as a couple, into who we are today: our origin stories.

Unlike the superheroes and supervillains, though, our origin story doesn’t have to be the whole story. As Christians, those so-called defining moments, which make the comic book characters who they are and what they do, don’t have to define us. God can use even the most painful experiences in our past to bring about something new.

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19

Are you in the wilderness in some area of your life? Do you feel like everything around you is a wasteland?

We’ve been there, too. Join us on Sunday to hear how God made a way in the wilderness for us and to be encouraged that He is making all things new.

Stories of Restoration, Part 1 – Joel & Michelle

14 Oct

When I started as pastor of Faith Church, I remember standing before the congregation most Sundays thinking to myself, Look at all those smiling faces, those well-dressed people.  They don’t need to hear this sermon.  My feeling has long been described by the phrase “you’re preaching to the choir”.

Five years has passed, and my perspective has turned 180 degrees.  I now look out each Sunday morning thinking, they all need this! 

Why? Because I have learned a lot about your stories, your families, your struggles.  And most of all, I know about my family, my struggles.  All of us have them.  We are a people in progress.  We all have a story to share, a tale of what the Apostle John would describe as the light crowding out the darkness in our lives.

Yesterday, then, I shared three stories from Michelle’s and my life.  My car accident when I was 17, a difficult situation in Michelle’s past which led to her struggle with anorexia, and finally our year of personal pain as church-planting missionaries in Jamaica.

Ours is a story of restoration, of God’s healing in our lives on multiple levels, and we praise him. But you know what?  We still need restoration.  Michelle and I are still sinners in need of a savior to change us, and that is our prayer.  Don’t put us on a pedestal.  It’s not like we have been perfect for the last 12 years since our return from Jamaica.  Many of you have seen us mess up in big ways right in front of you.  If you haven’t, just ask our kids!  Our prayer continues to be that the Lord would change us and make us more like Jesus.  God wants to make us new!  He wants to do the same in your life too.

So what about you?  Do you need to share your story?  Might sharing be the beginning of healing?

(If you want to read a longer treatment of my accident story, you can do so here.)