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But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved. – Ephesians 2:4-5
Have you ever been in a situation of feeling completely helpless or powerless? (I hope none of you have been in a dangerous or life-threatening situation like this.)
When I was a youth group leader in Canada, I took the youth group sledding one winter evening. We knew of a great place that was secluded deep in the countryside with steep, snow-covered hills, so about 12 of us packed into the church van and I drove to what seemed to be the middle of nowhere and we had a great time.
After a few hours we were cold and had had enough so we got back in the van, ready to warm up and return home. I put the key into the ignition and turned it. Nothing. I tried again. No reaction at all from the van. Maybe you know this terrible feeling of a dead engine. I made a show of opening the hood and looking at the engine and fiddling with some cables, but I know nothing about engines and it was still dead (and this was in the days before cell phones so there was no calling for help).
One of the kids suggested praying. To be completely honest, I thought it was a lower priority, we should be thinking of ways to get help or get the van started, or just to stay warm. But of course I wouldn’t say that out loud. So we prayed then I turned the ignition. And the dashboard lit up and I felt an incredible relief when the engine rumbled and came to life.
I have no idea what happened, but was simply thankful that we could drive home safely.
Ephesians 2:4 says we are “dead in our trespasses” – dead in our sins. We have no ability to do anything to help ourselves or save ourselves. We are made alive by God’s love and mercy for us, not by anything we do. This is a pure act of grace!
Can you remember the moment you felt spiritually alive in Christ? Can you remember when you last experienced God’s great love and rich mercy?
Take a moment to reflect on that – and share your story with someone else!
Our society has become more and more individualistic. "Everyone for themselves" seems to be the modus operandi. It's all about me. It's my right.
This, however, is anything but Jesus' teaching.
Jesus says, "by this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:35). In fact, "it is better to give than to receive." (Acts 20:35)
Jesus is counter-cultural, and so should we.
As we journey through this land of "in between normals," God is challenging us to leave behind the values that belong to the old world. Instead, we pick up Kingdom values, the ones that we need for the "new normal" that God has prepared for us.
My favourite part of today's reading (Acts 11) is how Barnabas sought out and mentor a young guy named Saul. We met him two days ago.
Saul had a past and didn't have a good reputation. Many Christians were suspicious of him. But this didn't stop Barnabas from stepping in.
Now, Barnabas was based in Jerusalem. But he took the trouble of travelling over 600 miles to Tarsus, Saul's hometown, to look for Saul. (Did Barnabas own a camel?)
Barnabas sought out Paul and took him to Antioch. There, "for a whole year," Barnabas mentored him. He introduced Saul to the Christian community and helped him developed his ministry.
A few years later, this young guy Saul would become Apostle Paul, the guy who wrote half of the New Testament Bible.
No Barnabas, no Paul.
Our society glorifies "it's all about me." Not so for the Kingdom of God.
In the Kingdom "new normal," we become intentional in looking "to the interests of the others." (Philippians 2:4)
Love always points outward.
We may not be able to do much, but as Ps. Andy Stanley says, "do for one what you wish you could do for everyone."
Like Saul, I am also a beneficiary of other's sacrificial love. I am who I am today because of those people who sought me out and invested in me. I didn't deserve it. But I am grateful for what they did.
My friend, who are you blessing today?
Now, you might ask, "What's in it for me?"
Here is the answer: The beauty of your sacrificial love is that ...
Nobody will know you are the hero behind the scene! But your God in heaven knows exactly what you did in secret! You will find a kind of satisfaction that no one can explain, and your God in heaven will be smiling because of you.
So, who are you blessing today?
Who has been a blessing to you in your life? What did they do that was so meaningful to you? Who in your world can you extend help?
Prayer for Today:
I am extremely thankful for the people you have placed in my life. Many of them have played a significant role in shaping who I am today. God, I want to reciprocate and learn to pass on the blessings to other people. Please give me wisdom and insight so that I can act in a wise way.
In Jesus' name. Amen.
Galatians 2:20, NIV: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." ... And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me."
When I first became a pastor I remember praying for God to teach me two specific things :
As I read this verse from Galatians; God dissected my prayers into a more elaborate picture of this in my life.
I need to be reminded of this daily, if not moment by moment, especially when I am under the attack of the enemy.
What is God asking you to do today? Take a moment and write down what He is saying to you? Is it to pause and receive His love? Is it to forgive and reconcile with a specific person? Is it to see a particular situation through His eyes and to not take things into your own hands?
Let us spur each other on and continue to walk in Faith. Amen.
Wenjin (Jean) Wang is an artist who came to Hong Kong from Beijing to pursue her Masters and during that time, she got connected with Island ECC. She started serving and went to Yunnan on a mission trip where she heard God calling her into missions. In her journey of service, and grappling with how missions and art can work together, she saw how God had designed her so specifically for her calling.
Have you ever noticed how much past experiences can influence what you’re like in the present? Serious or quirky, things we are aware of or operate in the subconscious, past events can influence us for better or worse in the here and now. For instance:
I like a certain banana flavoured candy that’s doesn’t even taste good… because my mom did
I feel nauseous at the smell of paint…because I spent a summer painting as a teenager
I’m often impatient and overly sensitive if I feel someone’s not really listening to me…because it happened continually in an important relationship growing up
We often assume these are events or experiences of the past that are just dots on our timeline, but somehow they seem to find their way into our lives even in the present. As I was reading Romans 5:1-11, I found that Paul too was foregoing linear thinking and drawing key connections from the past into the present. For instance, check out verse 1…
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul is calling to mind a past event that was already completed, but is not without its present and future implications. He shares that we have peace (v.1), access into grace and the hope of glory that causes rejoicing (v.2) all because of that crucial past event! And what links Jesus’s death and resurrection in the past with its present and future blessings? Faith.
Faith is the bridge that connects us being justified (put in right standing with God) by Jesus, and the wonderful fruit that comes from it. In a good way, faith connects what happened in the past with what’s possible in the present and future. You’ll notice this all throughout this passage, but for one more example, look at verse …
“…but God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
God “demonstrates.” Wow, I would have fully expected this verb to be in the past tense. But, it wasn’t proof, it IS proof of God’s love. It’s an ongoing reality we need every day. So, a good prayer today might be this:
“God, help me have faith that connects what you accomplished in the past with what you want to accomplish in me and through me today.”
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