2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.
God is so good. He provides lessons when you need them, through the scriptures, through prayer, and in other ways. He speaks to you. And through this, He reinforces His word. One lesson for me this week is to acknowledge His creation – specifically others and their gifts. Often times, in our enthusiasm for Christ, we don’t understand why other people don’t see Him in the way we see Him. To be reminded of His grace, and that He has a plan for everyone, is helpful. For it is through His grace that we are saved, and in His time do we come to Him.
It is with this in mind that I contemplate gifts, both His gift of salvation, and the way that he has beautifully crafted the kaleidoscope of humanity in His image. In that, everyone has gifts, spiritual gifts, that can be used to glorify Him, and to live out His word. For in doing so do we acknowledge His gift to us, serve Him in a way we were created to, and show our gratitude for His sacrifice.
Romans 11 (NKJV)
Serve God with Spiritual Gifts
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
One of the things I’ve always been drawn to is environmental causes. This has been true since I was a child. There was always a sense of grief, and utter confusion at the witnessing of the destruction of God’s creation. This led me to participate in many groups, organizations, and efforts dedicated to ‘saving the earth’ if you will. Most of the efforts sought reconciliation between man and earth, mostly through the advocacy of man’s acceptance of the sacredness of the natural world. To me, it seemed reasonable.
As a new Christian, I now rest assured in Jesus. Despite the world around me, in its chaos and destruction, I know without doubt that Jesus renews. One issue that has come up in partnership recently is still this need to bring about renewal on earth through preserving, respecting, and honoring creation. I’ve wrestled with this, in part because I have not encountered much through my reading of scripture about this. Until this morning.
In reading Romans 8 (NKJV), I came to understand that even creation awaits eagerly for Him, as “the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption.” This speaks of Jesus’ authority over everything, and is truly cause for celebration. Through His return, creation is renewed.
From Suffering to Glory
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
After encountering this, I recalled many instances where the earth trembles before the Lord, as it expresses in amongst other places, Nahum 1:5 (NKJV). The earth is intelligent, as some say, not only because it is God’s creation, but also because it recognizes Jesus.
5 The mountains quake before Him,
The hills melt,
And the earth heaves at His presence,
Yes, the world and all who dwell in it.
It’s important to recognize that even in the destruction that we see, in whatever ways we encounter it, we must remember that all of creation eagerly awaits His return, and respects His authority. It is certainly cause for reflection when encountering the morning song of the bird, the cool mid-day breeze, and even the breathtaking setting sun. He subjects creation to hope. And in that, we can release the anxiety and stress of the chaos, and instead rest in a place of extreme gratitude and full recognition of His glory and fulfillment. It speaks to God’s kindness and love. It speaks to God’s grace.
In being a follower of Christ, I seek His word and guidance, through prayer, fellowship, and scripture. It is in these moments, I reencounter God’s grace, and see how limited I am in my own understanding. It is also through continual renewal of myself that I understand how He walked, and how He asks me to walk with Him.
Yesterday, I deepened my understanding of God’s grace. In seeking counsel on a relationship, I became judgmental, and sought to push my own understanding based on my journey onto another. But in counsel with another follower of Christ, I had insight into the ways that God works in the hearts of each and every one of us.
He knows His time. He knows what to say and how to say it and when to say it unto each of us so that we understand. In the trials and tribulations of the heart, He is there. In our everyday conveyances, He is there. In our sweat, passions, tears, and actions, He is there. Therefore, I must give it up to Him above that He understands how to talk to the hearts of everyone, more so than I do.
So, it was in this counsel that I was reminded that God’s grace is extended to each and every one of us, and that gift in Jesus Christ is such an amazing blessing that He would have each of us come to know it. He does not want me to be casting judgement on those who have yet to come to Him, as He is doing works in their hearts just as He has done in mine. It is on me to pray, to listen, to witness, to act, and to walk with Him as He would have me walk with Him.
In reading Acts (NKJV) after this counsel, I read about the exact type of encounter that Peter had in Chapter 11.
Peter Defends God’s Grace
11 Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
4 But Peter explained it to them in order from the beginning, saying: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object descending like a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came to me. 6 When I observed it intently and considered, I saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 7 And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ 8 But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ 9 But the voice answered me again from heaven, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.’ 10 Now this was done three times, and all were drawn up again into heaven. 11 At that very moment, three men stood before the house where I was, having been sent to me from Caesarea. 12 Then the Spirit told me to go with them, doubting nothing. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 And he told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house, who said to him, ‘Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon whose surname is Peter, 14 who will tell you words by which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?”
18 When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
Today I watched a testimony of a man who had been widely influential in the new age movement. His influence had brought him great wealth and prosperity, yet he was not happy, and in fact was deeply troubled. He had been led astray by seeking his own understanding. While he did not discard Jesus, he did not embrace Him fully either. After going through a period of trial and battle, he accepted the Lord. The testimony was powerful in that it showed how the Lord can gently guide us back to His path. I pray that those who are embattled with such strongholds seek the Lord, for His way is full of mercy and forgiveness.
In reading scripture after watching this testimony, I came across I Corinthians 2, which speaks of spiritual wisdom. The man giving his testimony in the video thought that he had great spiritual wisdom, and that it was a gift from God. Instead, he did not fully root himself in the ways of the Lord, and found out the hard way that it is not safe to do so. For in seeking the Truth, God will provide for us and reveal to us things that we should know.
1 Corinthians 2 New King James Version (NKJV)
10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
In receiving the Spirit of God, we receive the Holy Spirit, which guides us, teaches us, and helps us to walk with Christ. It’s important to know that these are all gifts from God that we must accept so that we can receive His wisdom.
13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
The scriptures call on us to follow Jesus with unrelenting dedication, to seek Him and constantly be waiting for Him, and as a result to learn from Him. It is through this dedication that our hearts experience His Light, and that we are guided in our journeys to discover His truth, compassion, mercy, and teaching. We are better as a result, and come out of the darkness of sin and desires of the flesh, which only serve ourselves.
As a learner, I am always seeking to be better in my understanding of following Jesus. Reading scriptures is the best way to do that. In my reading over the past couple days, it became clear to me that the following Jesus puts a light within us that gives us confidence, insight, and understanding.
John 8 (NJKV)
12 Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
As someone who has accepted Jesus as his personal savior, I delight in His light. In the very words I write here, I am guided by His light. I encourage anyone who reads this to embrace His light, to embrace His Truth, and to boldly claim your alignment with His light.
Luke 8 (NJKV)
The Parable of the Revealed Light
16 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. 18 Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him morewill be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.”
It is incredibly important to understand and come into alignment with His light. By doing so, you are shown His ways, and He walks with you. This process of aligning with His light and walking with Him is continual. Through devotion, we find solace and are humbled to His ways. And, truly, we develop our ability to discern what is of His light and what is of this world.
Luke 11 (NJKV)
The Lamp of the Body
33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”
When we develop our understanding through His light, and walk with Him, we receive His lessons, mercy, and gifts. Therefore, we must praise Him and share our knowledge of Him with the world. It is in doing so that we give others the opportunity to know Him through our alignment with His light. And, hence, we give others the opportunity to then glorify and praise Him as a result of knowing Him.
I awoke from a dream of reading scripture, Matthew 4. In the dream there was a sense of urgency, a completion of sorts. A perspective shift that needed to expand.
I turned on my light and opened to the scripture, which I had read before, but to which I had forgotten its detail until I laid eyes upon it. Then I understood:
Satan Tempts Jesus
4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. 3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’
I immediately understood these words, as they were the next step in my understanding. You see, yesterday I wrote about Faith from the Beginning, where God told Satan in the Garden of Eden of His Son to come, which took place at the very, very, very first instance of sin against God. The passage for today, which illustrates the next step, is that upon being baptized and having the Spirit of God descend like a dove and alight upon him (Matthew 3:16), he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
In other words, upon being baptized and receiving the Holy Spirit, the very, very, very first thing that happens is the temptation is beset upon Him. And being the most righteous One, He of course resists, and in resisting shows us that the temptation to nourish himself of this world is fleeting and that the word of God is eternal and should be where we rest our hearts. Even in His rebuking, He instructs us.
Now, I could end this post there, but alas, God had an illustration for me. A dear friend of mine was in line at the ferry terminal this morning, some few hours after this dream. She called me, and we were talking, when a rental truck in front of her backed into her front bumper. She told me what happened, was clearly jarred, and abruptly ended the call.
I was concerned, and asked if she wanted my presence. She called back, flustered, asking what to do. Without thinking, a key phrase, I entered the habitual mind, thinking of the norms of this world, and without reflection I suggested to get his insurance information and even to call the police if the situation warranted. She then said he was uninsured, and offered her money. Again without thinking, I told her to call her insurance and to see if she had uninsured motorist coverage. These are suggestions that most often would make sense, but what I had failed to do is to seek God in the situation, to seek His guidance and His Word. Immediately upon recognizing this I sent her a message saying “You can also choose compassion if it’s not a big deal to you and let God sort it out.” She replied she had indeed did that. Upon getting on the ferry, she explained that the driver of the rental truck was lost, had thought he was taking a road to the city, and was frustrated to be in line to get on the ferry. He was trying to turn around, and accidentally ran into her car. He was clearly confused, was new to the area, and was trying to make the situation right by giving her money.
Upon hearing this I sought the Word, and was shown Micah 4:2
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways,
And we shall walk in His paths.”
She again called seeking advice. I shared this passage with her and suggested that she give the money back, wish him a good day, and say God bless him. To this end, she did these things, saying he received her well, and that his eyes were kind.
What I realized in this moment is that temptation sometimes even presents itself veiled in what is seemingly good, what will seemingly nourish us. I discovered through this experience that God asks us to truly seek love, to love our neighbor, and to move from a place of love in all our dealings, even in the situations that jolt us and make us enter into habitual mindsets. It is through doing this that we will find true nourishment and shall truly live.
As a new Christian, I’m learning what God has in store for me every single day. What’s clearer by the day is that dedicating time to reading scriptures is the most useful tool for discerning God’s will for me. Today I turned to read Genesis, the beginning of creation, and made it through the first five chapters. Then God stirred in me and I seemed to recall that Jesus was referenced in the beginning of Genesis. I looked it up, and sure enough in Genesis 3 (NKJV), The Temptation and The Fall of Man, speaks about Jesus. It says:
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent:
Because you have done this,
You are cursed more than all
And more than every beast of
On your belly you shall go,
And you shall eat dust
All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel.”
I found this important because then I asked for guidance for God’s will for me, and he showed me the following passage from Habakkuk 3 (NKJV):
12 You marched through the land
You trampled the nations
13 You went forth for the salvation
of Your people,
For salvation with Your
You struck the head from the
house of the wicked,
By laying bare from foundation,
God’s guidance for me today is to know certainly a few things.
First, He has a plan for me. As is written in these scriptures, His plans have been such from the beginning. By putting my trust in Him and in His plan for me, He will deliver me from sin into salvation. I trust this inherently.
Second, God knew from the beginning that He had to send Jesus to redeem us from sin. God says this in the very, very, very first instance of sin against Him. Think about that for a moment. This shows God’s omniscience, and His acknowledgement of the way of salvation as He knew what would happen as a result of the fall of man.
Third, God shows me that the Bible is a living document. He gave me insight, and showed me how these scriptures were tied together. These speak of Jesus coming, marching and trampling the enemy for his propagation of sin, and saving His people. It is with this insight that you can see why in Genesis 3 it says “And you shall bruise His heel.” It is because Jesus will march and trample the enemy.
Together these two scriptures give me insight into how God works, confidence that taking time every day to read scriptures will guide my life, and that God has a plan for everything. These lessons are important to me as I continue my journey with Jesus.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.