Why Should We Want a New Life?

I have to admit that I love School House Rock. It reminds me of when I was growing up and the quality cartoons I got to watch after school or on Saturday mornings. Admittedly I’m a little biased about the cartoons that I grew up with, and School House Rock was a big part of them. There’s a line in the video from above that always sticks out for me, and thats that we have the right for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Oh yeah, and right before that line they say that “We’re Free!” I know that most of the time when we hear these things that we’re thinking of them in terms of being a part of a nation that grants us these rights. At least those of us who grew up in the U.S. are probably thinking that. This is something that we’ve been taught since we were little. This is part of the American Dream!

But where does this right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness come from? It doesn’t come from a country or a government…does it? The Declaration of Independence tells us that these rights come from our creator, which shouldn’t be a big surprise. God is the only one who can grant these rights, but have you ever stopped to think about what it really means? What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about it? What first comes to my mind is that I can live out a life that I want to live without having to worry about someone else interfering in it. This was the concern of the founding fathers. They lived in a world where restrictions were placed on them by others who were thousands of miles away, and it made them angry to be controlled by people outside of their world. But is this the life that we aspire to as Christians? Is this the new life that we have through Jesus Christ? As Christian people, is this our right for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

I would argue that its not, because the new life that we have through Christ is so much more.

Read Romans 5:12-6:14

Prior to this passage in Romans, Paul has described the effects of sin. For Paul, sin leads to death even after one incident. This may seem like a pretty harsh punishment, and it is, but stop and think for a second. Everyone dies eventually. Paul doesn’t tell us that our death is immediate because of our transgression. So it would seem that the consequences of sin are minor, but this isn’t the point that Paul is trying to make. This is one of the reasons why it is hard for us to convince other people of the need for new life, because the ultimate consequence is so far off.

So what does this mean for us? Paul notes that sin takes control of us and it begins to guide our lives. We know this is true. Have you ever done something wrong that lead you to making more wrong decisions? Have you ever been in that downward spiral? This is the effect of sin that Paul is getting at. Sin, when it rules our lives takes away our freedom and ability to live out the life that we want to live.

Having a new life in Jesus Christ, through his death and resurrection changes this. He is the one who can pull us out of the downward spiral. Having a new life in Christ is not as limiting as some might think. We live in a world that God has created. This isn’t a little world, or a small creation. This world that’s been created has a place for us in it. This isn’t just any place either, its a wide open place that gives us the freedom and the ability to live out a life with purpose and happiness. This isn’t a life that is limited by sin because we are no longer in a world that is dominated by it.

Just so I don’t sound like I’m preaching the prosperity Gospel, this new life doesn’t mean that everything is going to be easy and we won’t have any problems. God never promises us that. Rather, now we have hope, so that even when the worst happens we can look towards hope and a world that is not dominated by past sins and mistakes, but one where all of creation is open before us. This is a world where we are not destined for one path because of what we’ve done in the past. This is the real right that we have for Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of happiness. Everything else is just a pale imitation.

Gracious God,
Let me look to you and your creation for the life that I long for
Help me to live a life that is full of your grace and not dominated by sin and death
Guide my heart, my hands, and my mind to live a life that is full of your creation
In Christ’s name, Amen

Turning Around

Start by reading Acts 9:1-19

Key Verse:
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
(Acts 9:5 NIV)

This is a great line because in one sentence Paul’s (Saul’s) life does a complete turn around. Its funny sometimes how one line can change your life. The goofy thing is that it isn’t that one point that changes his life. His life changes with his experience on the road to Damascus, but it doesn’t stop there. It takes a while for his life to change completely. Keep in mind that he spends the next three days blind and doesn’t eat or drink anything.

Last Sunday I was preaching about turning around and going in the opposite direction from where you were, and that’s not an easy process. Imagine what it would be like to be heading to St. Louis down I-70 and ending up in Topeka. Thats the kind of turn around that Paul was going through. He’d gone a hundred miles in the wrong direction. That means he’s got a hundred miles to go just to get back to where he started from.

Sometimes we face those trips. We’ve gone in one direction for a long time, only to realize that we’re in the wrong state. The hardest part about that is that we know just how far away we are and what its gonna take to get back. How often does that hold us back? How hard is it to turn around when we know how deep the hole is?

Paul was experiencing that same thing, because he’d been going in the wrong direction for a long time. Except, what made it even harder for Paul was that his direction was whole heartedly approved of by the Jewish leaders. Its like those times when you’ve been given great advice or a great set of directions from some friends, and you know you can trust them. That’s until you wind up completely lost with no idea where to go. Then you have to deal with being lost, and disappointed.

So, what’s the good news? Well, the good news is that there’s no hole to deep that God can’t pull us out of. I know, that sounds like the feel good Sunday School answer, and its one that’s hard to accept. We want there to be something hard waiting for us, because we know what it took to get us there in the first place. We have this idea that the punishment has to fit the crime, and when we know what the crime is, then we begin thinking of what the punishment might look like.

This is where we can learn something from Paul. We know that God calls for a purpose, but like Paul that means that we have to turn ourselves over to that purpose. If we want to come out of that hole; if we want to turn around we have to be willing to answer that call. Now, I know what the next question is, “how do I know what I’m being called for?” You know because you won’t be the only one who hears that call. Paul had lots of witnesses for his call. There were the folks that were on the road with Paul, and then there was Ananias who was the most powerful witness to Paul’s call. There will be others that will witness our call, who can let us know if we’re crazy, or spot on with what God is calling us to do. But, we’re also called to be a part of a community. We don’t read much about the community in this part of Acts 9, but we do read about it throughout the rest of Acts.

We know that God forgives completely, and that he doesn’t place requirements on it. When we try to turn around we have to go in a new direction and that means turning ourselves over to God. That doesn’t sound a lot easier though does it? The benefit is that we’ll have help all along the way. God will be there to guide us and there’ll be lots of folks there to act as witnesses and help us out along the way. And even after we’ve accepted that call we’ll still be part of a community that will be with us on the journey. The mistake we often make is that we are waiting for the punishment. God doesn’t care about the punishment, he cares about the turn around. When your goal is to turn around, then your whole perspective changes and a new world opens up. So stop focusing so much on the punishment so much, and start looking for the place where you can turn around and start going back the right direction.

Where have you needed to turn around?

Who has been there with you, or who do you need with you to be a witness to you call?

Prayer
Gracious God, we know there isn’t anyplace where we can get lost from you.
We know that you have called us for a purpose, but that you haven’t called us to be alone.
Thank you for what you’ve done, and for your guidance.
Watch over us in this day, and in all days, Amen

When I Grow Up

When I was a kid I had all sorts of things that I wanted to be when I “grew up.” Granted, there are lots of folks that would say I’m not there yet. When I was really little I wanted to study dinosaurs. Then I wanted to be a doctor. That lasted up until I was a senior in High School and realized that it wasn’t something I wanted to do.

At about that time I was starting college and I had to start figuring out what I was going to do with my life. The only problem was that I had a hard time figuring it out. By the time I had graduated from college (after 5 years) I’d had three different majors. After that I had a decent idea of what I wanted to do, but I still had a long way to go. For that matter I still have a long way to go.

What did you want to be when you grew up? Was it some of the things that were in the video from above? We spend a lot of time growing up figuring out what we want to be when we finally do grow up. What becomes hard is when we realize that we aren’t going to be the star football player, or a great actress. What do we do when we have that realization? Do we have it because we have figured out something better, or because our dream has been crushed? Either way, the question that remains is “what comes after?”

It seems that a lot of times we are left with this question of the unknown.

David was facing this same thing. We pick David’s story up in 1 Chronicles 17. Not to long before this David is crowned King over Israel, and it was about time too. He’d spent a lot of his life working for this moment, waiting for this time in his life to arrive. Then he gets there, and if Hollywood was making a movie of this, the next line would be “and they all lived happily ever after, The End.” But David forgets that every movie has to have a sequel, and he’s about to find out what his is going to be, and he’s going to find out what was unknown.

David finds this when he’s told no. David’s ready to find out what he’s going to be when he grows up, but its not what he wants. He goes to the prophet Nathan and tells him about where the Ark is kept. Nathan figures out that David wants to build a temple for God and tells David to go ahead and do what he wants. Nathan really should know better than to talk for God, before he talks to God. God comes to Nathan and tells him that he has to tell David that he can’t build God’s temple, but God doesn’t leave David hanging with nothing. God promises to David that Israel is going to be firmly established and that his enemies will be subdued. But, God doesn’t stop there. David is also promised that one of his son’s will be the one to build the temple and that his throne, and God’s kingdom will be established forever.

I get that not all of us are David and that we can’t all have the same type of promise made to us, but it doesn’t mean that God will leave us hanging. We aren’t all going to be promised a great kingdom, or that one of our kids is going to rule the world. But we have been created to have our own role in this creation, even if its not what we intended at different points in life. We know that God does not leave us hanging, not matter what happens. We also know that he leads us to that creation if we’ll follow.

When have you been told no?

Where are you now that you may not have seen yourself in the past?

What are the unknown places that God is leading you?

Gracious God,
Guide us and lead us into unknown places. Help us to find what we are to be when we grow up. We know that you have created us according to a purpose, and that you are leading us to live out that purpose. We are thankful God, for what you do for us, and ask for your continued blessings.
In Christ’s Name, Amen

Thoughts, Stories, Ideas, and Randomness from a different perspective

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