Foretaste of the Future

Day 30 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. Revelation 7:9

Writing from the island of Patmos to seven churches, the elderly apostle John is both pastor and poet. He writes metaphorically, allegorically, apocalyptically, and in everyday terms. The book of Revelation is mysterious and often confusing! But John’s letter is grounded in the history of the early church’s expansion, the realities of persecution, and in his deep and abiding love for Jesus.

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The Christ Community

Day 29 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 1 John 4:7-12

“Love one another” is perhaps the most memorable of the many “one another” passages in the New Testament, which also includes forgive one another, accept one another, serve one another, and many others.

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Blood, Then Peace

Day 28 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. Colossians 1:19-23

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace…”

In his last and perhaps most memorable major speech, his second inaugural address given on the steps of the Capitol, Abraham Lincoln pleaded with a divided nation to bind up its wounds.

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Heavenly Students of God’s Interracial Church

Day 27 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 3:10-11

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know.”

Groucho Marx reminds us that language is a funny thing. If we’re not careful, we might miscommunicate in humorous or unpleasant ways.

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Broken Body, Broken Wall, Restored Humanity

Day 26 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. Ephesians 2:14-16

In 1871 and 1935, archeologists in Jerusalem discovered inscriptions that warned of death to Gentiles who passed beyond the wall within the temple that separated the Court of the Gentiles from areas reserved specifically for Jews. These signs confirm Paul’s statement earlier in Ephesians regarding the alienation of Gentiles from Jews, but also point to the failure of the Jews to live according to the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 12:3. Rather than living such that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” the Jews had focused on privilege.

Jesus resolved the Gentiles’ alienation from both God and the Jews by simultaneously setting aside the law and fulfilling the law (see Matt. 5).

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Church Potluck and a Movie

Day 25 of RECONCILE, A 30-day devotional

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When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned…. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. Galatians 2:11, 13

You and I, along with Peter and Paul, have been invited to dinner at the church of Antioch’s potluck. Picture the table spread: BBQ pork ribs, bacon, ham, hot dogs, lobster, shrimp, and crab—all cooked and donated by Gentile Christians. The guest of honor is the apostle Peter. He has enjoyed these treats for several days as the guest of Paul. You might recall that Peter at one time had a disdain for Gentiles and their potlucks, but he was freed from his own bigotry and strictly kosher diet after having a liberating dream in Acts 10, and a God encounter at Cornelius’ house. As a result, Peter and other pillars of the early church approved of Paul’s gospel of grace and ministry to the Gentiles.

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Real Diplomacy

Day 24 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20

Shirley Temple Black starred in over forty films before her twelfth birthday. Decades later she entered diplomatic work and served as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. During those years, she once stated: “There are many of us who should be in a position to bring peace to the world.”

Unlike Ms. Black, in the ancient world ambassadors were older, experienced men commissioned for a special assignment. However, like Black, they acted and spoke on behalf of the nation or power that sent them. Indeed, then and now, ambassadors are both messengers and representatives.

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Easy to Say, Difficult to Do

Day 23 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19

After the abolition of apartheid in South Africa, the leaders of the country put together the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. In this court-like setting, people who suffered under apartheid were able to give testimony, and those who perpetrated injustice were able to explain themselves and seek amnesty. Dramatic stories came out of the proceedings, but the result was mixed and controversial, with some groups feeling as though justice was undermined.

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Jumping the Broom

Day 22 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:11

“Jumping the broom” was an African marriage ceremony tradition continued by African-American slaves. Slave owners prohibited any legal recognition of marriage and rights for slaves. Therefore, the slave community developed its own methods of identifying committed unions. Today, many African-American newlyweds still jump the broom after the minister pronounces them as man and wife.

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No Excuses!

Day 21 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

“I’m sorry.” There may be no two words more difficult to utter. Doing so requires a willingness to examine ourselves, come to grips with our behavior, and take responsibility. Although admitting our faults to another when we have injured them isn’t easy, we’re usually pretty sure that they’ll forgive us. Living at peace always requires humility.

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Can We Disagree?

Day 20 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left… Acts 15:37-40

New York City radio host, Bernard Meltzer, once said that “if you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along—whether it be business, family relations, or life itself.” Meltzer’s down-to-earth wisdom reminds us that to disagree is no justification for becoming disagreeable.

In Luke’s record of the early church’s growth and expansion, two prominent leaders came to sharp disagreement over a young colleague, Mark.

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Enemies No More

Day 19 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:1-6

In his book, Hidden in Plain Sight, Mark Buchanan tells the true-life story of reconciliation between a woman named Regine and the man who had killed her son in the genocide in Rwanda. One night there was a knock on Regine’s door.

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When Reconciliation is Rejected

Day 18 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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“But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’” Acts 7:27-28

This is a test. For the next sixty seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test.

Most of us dislike random interruptions. We’d rather stay tuned to our preferred radio or television broadcasts than pay attention to unwelcome public service announcements.

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You Forgot the Candlesticks

Day 17 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You “ He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” John 21:15-17 (NASB)

Les Misérables tells the story of ex-prisoner Jean Valjean, hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert.

The drama begins with Valjean finishing a 19-year prison sentence for stealing a loaf of bread. Inspector Javert reminds him of his past sins and prophesies that he is and always will be a marked man. But a godly bishop shows Valjean kindness and hospitality.

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Intentional Detours and Deepening Faith

Day 16 of RECONCILE, a 30-day devotional

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When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” John 4:7, 9-10

DETOUR AHEAD. Perhaps no sign can so quickly put a damper on a family road trip. All of a sudden we are slowed down, inconvenienced, and made to go into unexpected territory. But what if we experience God more intimately as a result of being taken where we don’t want to go?

In John 4, Jesus decided to return to Galilee from Judea. Although the most direct route passed through Samaria, most Jews at the time chose to avoid the land of their bitter racial enemies, and instead lengthened their journey by traveling around Samaria.

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