God of Renewal

I’d never read the Bible through chronologically and in a condensed period of time (as you would read any other book) until two years ago. Now I’ve done it twice, and it’s changed my relationship to the Word of God in so many ways—one of which was totally unexpected.

I always dreaded history classes. Except for the two in high school that I enjoyed simply because I enjoyed the teacher. Other than those two classes, history was tedious and a chore. Traveling, I had little interest in historical spots. Drive on by, please.

Then I read the Bible. Through. Beginning to End. Alpha to Omega.

It changed my attitude toward history.

Because the Word lays out our history in the context of heaven’s influence and plan. It sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it, to say that reading the Bible gave me a new and exciting perspective on history?

It did. It does.

And in the history of God’s people and the world in general, you can’t miss that God is a God who makes all things new.

Look at all the words in Scripture that point to this work of God. He redeems. He restores. He renews. Re-creates. Cleanses. Purifies. Washes.

He makes new.

I’d somehow “lost” the Bible app on my phone…one that gave me a verse each day. It’s been “gone” for several weeks. I retrieved it this morning, and the verse that came up?

Come, let us sing to the LORD!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come to him with thanksgiving.
Let us sing psalms of praise to him. (Psalm 95:1-2)

That echoes my feeling as I think about our God, who makes everything new. He did not turn His back on us as a lost cause. He is working in us, creating us anew. He’s given us new life. He’s turned wildernesses into gardens, and deserts into oases. He brings dry bones to life.

He is the one who brings our salvation (rescue).

He created His beautiful world. He put mankind here to tend the creation. Humans decided, however, they’d rather go their own way.

Did He wipe us out? No. Did He turn His back and say, “Forget them” ? Nope.

Instead, He makes things new. He’s been promising it and doing it since Genesis. At this very moment, I’m sure there are some of His children confessing sin … and He will cleanse them. He’ll continue renewing, redeeming, cleansing, purifying—until, at the end of this earth’s life, the One on the throne will make everything new.

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 21:5-6)

And I have to add the rest of the verse. It doesn’t pertain to making all things new, but…it’s all just so wonderful and hopeful.

“To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.” (verses 6-7)

Sing to our Lord, the One who does not abandon us but rescues and makes everything new.

 

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

The hope of all things new

Tell me what emotion these images evoke:

Deep and powerful ocean crashing into high cliffs.

Fragile and delicate butterfly wings.

Iridescent, jewel-necklaced hummingbirds.

Towering, fragrant redwoods.

Dew drops shimmering on blades of grass.

Skies splashed with sunsets… sunrises… noonday colors.

Loon’s call drifting across a calm lake.

Harvest moon.

A magnified look at the perfect symmetry and design of each snowflake.

***

I could go on and on.

You probably can add your own images.

A phrase comes to mind: Achingly beautiful. 

But that phrase has been used so often, it’s become cliché and writers must avoid clichés and so I always feel compelled to avoid it when describing scenes.

Yet, interestingly, those two words tap into something far deeper than good writing or emotional reactions.

I’ve stood in absolute, wordless awe of the majesty and beauty of God’s creation. But mingled with the awe is a longing, some desire, some ache within me.

Have you felt it too?

I wonder if that ache comes in sympathy with the ache and groaning and longing of creation itself.

It is the ache of burdens of suffering and sin, the ache of limitations on our sight and our love, the ache of not yet being fully what God created us to be.

It is the ache of all creation yearning for the day when the curse we live under will be gone and death and gloom are done. God will have made the earth, finally, perfect, complete, and free.

The Garden of Eden re-created? I think it will be better.

This week, let’s look at our hope of all things made new

 

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

How this hope changes us

A co-worker almost died in a tragic accident on the farm. Telling me about that day, he said that while he lay there as they waited for emergency services to arrive, he saw an angel walking up the sidewalk, and he knew the angel had come to take him to heaven. The two of them had a conversation. That happened many years ago; I have not seen the man for at least 15 years. But that experience changed him. It colored his view of death and his thoughts on “leaving his family behind.” I have to believe the change brought by that experience has stayed with him.

Surely John was also changed forever by his glimpse into eternity. He had been on the mountain with Jesus when Elijah and Moses—people long “dead” and gone from the earth—came to talk with Jesus about what was going to happen in the very near future. He had heard God’s voice, he had seen people who were living in eternal realms, and he had seen Jesus in all His heavenly glory. That glimpse had to have changed the way John looked at life here and life in the future world.

Could he have been thinking of those moments when he wrote this?

Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears.
But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is.
And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3).

We are God’s children. We know He is already changing us, forming us into His image. But the day of completion is coming.

And then, what will we be like? Even John, who had that glimpse into eternity, cannot guess. But he was probably also thinking of what he did know—remember, he had also seen Jesus after His resurrection—in a new body, that transcended earthly limitations. Changed. But still the Jesus he had followed and loved. But now of another realm.

I do not yet understand how seeing Him “as He is” will complete my own transformation, but…think about what it will be like to know Christ fully, to be with Him face to face. Even now, the more time I spend with my Lord, the more He changes my mind, heart, thoughts, and actions. When I am with Him and can see Him with clear sight? Imagine it … When we are with Him, what incredible things will surely happen to all of us who love Him?

Dear friends, what will it be like to see clearly and fully how much He loves us? Surely that in itself will have power to transform. Paul says in Ephesians 3 that fully understanding Christ’s love makes us complete—“with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

What will it be like to be face to face with that love?

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We can’t ignore John’s last statement in this paragraph. It sums up how this hope changes us now. We’re headed for a glorious future, but … keeping ourselves pure? How in the world is that gonna happen?

John is talking about choosing our paths. We are on a different path now that we belong to Christ. We live in the kingdom of light, as John puts it, not in the kingdom of darkness. We are living by the laws of Christ’s kingdom and God’s new world now. Yes, sometimes we slip and live in the old ways. John has acknowledged that in the opening of his letter. We do sometimes sin, but God offers us a way to deal with that (see 1 John 1:9), and He goes right on working at changing us into a new creation, fit to live in His eternal city.

And so we live with this eager expectation, and it shapes our lives as we still walk here on earth.

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Oh, my!

I went to make my cup of tea before publishing this … and I see that the dark clouds and rain of early morning are drifting away. It is going to be a clear, wonderful autumn day.

It’s as if God is smiling and saying, “Yes, My fresh, new day is coming…”

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

The day of completion

As we look at our hope of the future, we find that the future has already begun. God is already working the good plans He has for us. We are already living heavenly lives in eternal realms.

That changes my perspective on today!

We have the promise that we will be totally, completely, fundamentally transformed—changed from what we are now to sons and daughters of Almighty God, formed in His image to be like Him. That change is already taking place, but the goal—our complete transformation.

1 Corinthians 2:7. Paul writes that God’s plan, from the beginning, has been for our ultimate glory.

Colossians 3:4. When Jesus Christ returns, to be seen by the whole world, we will “share in all his glory.”

Romans 8:23. Paul writes of the day when “God will give us our full rights as his adopted children.”

Hebrews 12:23 speaks of the spirits of those in heaven “who have now been made perfect.” Those who have gone before us—they’re already perfect!

Can you imagine perfection?
Can you imagine being everything that God intended you to be from the beginning?
Can you imagine being done with this earthly, sin-hounded stuff? To put our old nature behind us forever?
Can you imagine what it will be to live fully and completely a child of the Creator, living out the plan He had for us in the beginning?

I can’t. I think it’s going to be far beyond anything we can imagine. I think it will be the Garden of Eden magnified, because that serpent has been crushed.

As one of my friends likes to say, “It’s going to be good!”

And so I hold this hope:

… that God, who began the good work within you [and me], will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6)

This is the hope on which we go forward each day: We are in the midst of new creation. God is changing us, creating in us a new life in His image. He will not abandon His plan.

David wrote, long ago, that with our God there is full redemption. Overflowing.

And there will come a day when His plan for His children is finished and complete.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Sharing in Christ’s sufferings … making us like Him

Have you noticed how being like Jesus includes suffering?

Paul made it clear in his letters. In Romans 8:17, he writes of our now being heirs of God’s glory, along with Christ. But…

Yes, there’s the but…

“But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.”

What does that mean for you? To share in the suffering of Jesus?

I’m wrangling with that question.

How do I share His suffering?

Today, I could not get this post written. I thought I knew where I wanted to go with it, but … it was not right. I rewrote. And dug into more Scripture. And rewrote.

And I realized that I really don’t know what it means to share Christ’s suffering.

But Scripture says that sharing in His suffering brings us into an even deeper relationship with the Lord we follow. It produces His glory in us. It makes His life shine more brightly in us. It makes us more like Him.

I want that!

But what is sharing in the suffering of Christ?

I don’t know.

So I couldn’t write. Instead, I went looking for help in understanding.

And here’s something I found that I want to share with you. (Yes, I believe the Spirit does lead us to good things on the Internet!)

A sermon from David Wilkerson.

With a completely new look (for me) at sharing the suffering of Christ.

Instead of my thoughts today, ponder his.

There’s a lot to think about.

Here’s the link: The Fellowship of His Sufferings

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am trusting you, O LORD,
saying, “You are my God!”
My future is in your hands.
Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.
Let your favor shine on your servant.
In your unfailing love, rescue me.
(Psalm 31:14-16)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)