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In it, Not of it - A New Hope

Posted by donna on April 1, 2020

The great hope of the Gospel is not just that I get to go to heaven when I die, but that I am restored to a right relationship with God in the here and now. Like Abraham, I am declared righteous before God, freed from penalty, because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that forever satisfied the wrath of God against my sin.

easter.jpgAfter I get through all the commercialism, chocolate bunnies, chickens, assorted other barnyard animals, superheroes, and other confectionary figures, I begin to see Easter in a new light.  As I reflect on this Easter season, I see A NEW HOPE. The cross was the destiny for Jesus, and it was necessary. The grave was temporary, and it was necessary. But in the resurrection, I see a new hope in my restored relationship to my Heavenly Father, my Creator, the one who formed me and knew me before I breathed my first breath.

I now live a new life, a new freedom, a new identity in the here and now, just as Paul described in Galatians 2:20; I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in 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.” As I reflect on Easter, I know that heaven may be my destiny, but my life in faith, in Christ, in this present moment takes on a new perspective.

In a world filled with fear, tribalism, exclusiveness, rich vs poor, impending financial crisis, pandemic viruses and general hopelessness in the future, the Gospel, and only the Gospel, gives a new hope. This new hope that we live is not just for ourselves. If we truly live as Paul describes in Galatians 2:20, the life of living in the flesh by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us, then we will shine as lights of this new hope to those around us.  Our light will shine on those who lack hope and are seeking for hope in some way. The Gospel is much more lived out than talked about.

Easter often focuses on the two bookends of the passion, suffering and crucifixion of Jesus on the one side, and that glorious resurrection morning as the end of the story. As others have often noted; It’s Friday, but Sundays a coming! However, we must also look at the new hope that Easter brings that allows each of us to live in this world, yet so changed, so transformed by the power of the Gospel, that we do not assimilate into the world. We have been marked; we are different. We are in it, NOT of it.

Jesus shared this new hope with a woman desperately seeking hope as He used a simple illustration of water and thirst. The Samaritan woman didn’t understand at first and failed to see the hope Jesus was offering her. Philip shared this same hope with an Ethiopian dignitary who saw the hope, responded and was baptized as an outward expression of his receiving this new hope. Peter preached this new hope and over 3,000 responded in a single day.

What about you and me?  How are we living this new hope that we have in a way that draws others to Jesus? This Easter we may, and we should focus on the bookends of Easter, the suffering and crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus. We should also focus on the new hope that we have in the here and now through these momentous events that have changed us, transformed us and given us a message of new hope for those who have no hope.

Living in the victory of the resurrection, a new hope today and forever!

Bill Allan first name.PNG 

Rev. Bill Allan
AGC President 


In it, Not of it - A New Me

Posted by donna on March 4, 2020

One of my favorite New Testament letters also happens to be one of the shortest. The Apostle Paul’s letter to Philemon tells the story of an escaped slave, Onesimus, who is encouraged to return to his master, no longer as a slave, but as a brother.

onesimus.pngThe apostle Paul writes to Philemon; “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment ... For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a bondservant but as more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother” (Philemon vs. 10, 15-16).     

How can this be? What had changed? It was the transforming power of the Gospel in the life of Onesimus. It was seen in both the inward and outward standing of who Onesimus was, and who he now is. That same Gospel’s transforming power that also redeems us and now works in us, through the Holy Spirit to conform us to Christ.


In it, Not of it - Our Place in the World

Posted by donna on February 3, 2020

Romans 12 2.pngLater this Spring the AGC will celebrate our National Conference with the theme; In it, Not of it - Transformed. As I thought through the implications of what it means to be in the world, but not of it, I concluded that there is a greater purpose for us as believers to be here, at this time, wherever God has placed us. That purpose is eternal and therefore we must have an eternal perspective rather than an earthly or temporary one.

Too often we fall into the danger of short-sightedness, of only seeing current circumstances and we fail to see God’s bigger plan. In the immediate, we see difficulty, hardship, illness and suffering. We see broken relationships and a world that seems to be spinning out of control. 


Biblical Resolutions for a New Year

Posted by donna on January 6, 2020

I’ll be honest, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I’m too much of a realist, and I hate setting myself up for failure! I typically would be one of the 25% who abandons their resolution within the first two weeks of January! It is also very depressing to hear that only 8% of people who make a New Year’s resolution keep or achieve them!

bulletin board.jpgA quick google search brings out some interesting facts about New Year’s resolutions. Most are self-focused. The top four resolutions, according to one study are:

Diet & health-related - 71%                             
Exercise more - 65%                                     
Save more, spend less, pay debts - 32%               
Quit smoking/drinking - 21%

 


Christmas and the Gift of Grace

Posted by donna on December 2, 2019

The perfect gift for the person that has everything! That’s what the commercial said as it went on to describe why everyone, especially the person who has everything, would need one of these special super-duper gizmos. I didn’t buy the sales-pitch, and I didn’t buy the super-duper gizmo. If a person has “everything,” why would they need something else?

gift.jpgA gift is often unexpected, undeserved, valued and treasured because of the thought that went into selecting and presenting it. As it is with the Gospel. It’s the greatest gift of all time, for all people. We could do nothing to earn it ourselves, even though we often tried. It was undeserved because of our sin. It is valued and treasured because of the cost Jesus paid suffering and dying on a Roman cross. And it was, and still is, freely offered to all who would receive it.


The Impacts of Grace: #3 My Perception of Others

Posted by donna on November 4, 2019

bottle shoes.pngBefore you judge, walk a mile in my shoes . . .    Grace impacts our life at times in ways we wished it didn’t. We all find it easy to rush to judgment based on outward appearances, rules, and our own sense of right and wrong. Judging others, in some way alleviates our own guilt until we’re confronted by grace. Why is that? Grace impacts our life.

If the impact of grace on my life first begins with my perception of God, then moves to my perception of myself, then the most logical next step is that: it impacts my perception of others. And therein lies the conundrum we often face. Before I judge, walk a mile in their shoes.

Re-enter the elder son. In the Parable of the Prodigal as told by Jesus in Luke chapter 15, the elder son was upset by the younger son’s return. It’s not recorded whether he was just as upset when his younger brother left, or whether he was upset when he received his half of the inheritance. But he was angry when his brother returned. He would not reconcile with his brother. He was angry at his father; he judged his brother’s actions and totally disregarded his own sin of moralism.


The Impacts of Grace: #2 My Perception of Myself

Posted by donna on October 1, 2019

The Roman poet Ovid wrote about Narcissus in Greek mythology. He was very handsome and very proud. When he saw his reflection in a clear still pool, he could not stop looking at himself, nor pull away. There he died of thirst or starvation, depending upon the version you read. The term narcissist is a word often used in today’s selfie-focused society. Perceived external beauty triumphs over inner beauty, integrity and character. To make ourselves better in all ways, we grace 2.jpgjust need to compare ourselves with someone “less” and believe the lie that we are better.

Grace has a way of bursting that bubble. As we saw last month, grace first impacts our perception of God. When we see who God is, when we understand His nature and His character, our focus on self shifts.

In the Parable of the Prodigal the elder son was angry at his younger brother’s return. He would not celebrate, he would not go into the party, even when the father came to him. He responded to his father with selfishness and self-focus;


The Impacts of Grace: #1 My Perception of God

Posted by donna on September 9, 2019

What sets Christianity apart from any other religious system is the relational nature and character of God. He wants to be in relationship with us. We were created to have relationship with Him, and He celebrates when we do. Jesus tells us, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).  Sept blog.jpg

The Parable of the Prodigal as told by Jesus is about grace and highlights how grace impacts us in three ways. First, it impacts our perception of God. We all easily identify or self-identify with one of the main characters in the parable. If we are honest, it would be with the elder son. Too often, our perception of God is that He is only pleased with us when we obey the rules and "colour within the lines” as required by religious obedience and observance and, therefore, we are deemed a good person. 


Grace Rejected - Part 2

Posted by donna on August 1, 2019

grace.jpgThe apostle Paul when writing to a very complicated and problematic group of believers in Corinth used these words to describe love; Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy or boast, it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful. It does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things; believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). The same can be said of grace. Grace is never intrusive in our lives; it is a gift that was paid for by another and is freely offered to each of us.

The Parable of the Prodigal highlights the contrast between hedonism and moralism, and the failure of both in the face of grace. The hedonist easily recognizes this failure. After coming to his senses, the hedonist realizes his waywardness and the waste of his life and resources, and he eagerly accepts grace extended. The moralist, on the other hand, has much more difficulty in accepting grace extended. Enter the elder son, part two.


Grace Rejected - Part 1

Posted by donna on July 4, 2019

blog.jpgThe Parable of the Prodigal, as told by Jesus in Luke 15, is not primarily directed to us as believers. It is not just a story of a wayward son who came to his senses and returned home to a loving and forgiving father. Nor is it a story that primarily focuses on the younger son as representative of sinners in need of grace. It is a parable with a point, which Jesus directed to the religious leaders of that day.  He was speaking to those who saw themselves as better, as superior, as “good” because they, unlike the younger son, obeyed the rules including all the religious requirements of their day. They believed that they somehow deserved better.

Enter the elder son … “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.” But he was angry and refused to go in” (Luke 15:25-28a).