A New (Spiritual) Normal – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Yesterday, I shared how the COVID Quarantine has given me, and perhaps you, time to reflect on and pursue a deeper relationship with God. Today, I am asking what God might wish for as a new spiritual normal for us.

The Old–Afraid and Confused

Twelve men and some women were living behind locked doors. They were afraid– afraid of death. Their world had been rocked. Everything had changed suddenly. Dreams dashed, future dark with doubt and uncertainty.

The last three years had been like a dream. Sure, they were often confused and slow. They slept when they should have prayed. They feared instead of having faith. They questioned when they could have dug deeper.

But they had their Messiah. They saw the miracles. No one had ever done what He did. They heard His words. No one had ever taught like He taught. He was in control. They could slack a little.

Now He was dead. And their had hopes died with Him.

So here they were, behind locked and barred doors, afraid. Then, everything changed.

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.”

John 20:19-20 NIV
The Resurrected Jesus Appears to His Disciples

Waking to the New

Jesus’ appearance to His disciples was the beginning of an amazing awakening. I believe it is an awakening God can give each of us if we wish, ask, and pursue.

Over the next forty days, Jesus patiently explained what they had missed. He graciously forgave their failures. With unstoppable purpose, He prepared them for their future mission.

During this time, they remembered what they had forgotten. They understood what they hadn’t grasped. They became strong where they’d been weak. Like a plant in warm sunshine, their faith grew quickly.

Then Jesus left, ascending to heaven to carry on His work there. But not before promising to send a Helper like Himself, the Holy Spirit, to be with them always.

“On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.'”

Acts 1:4 NIV

They did not wait idly. They worshiped the Lord they had just been with. They lamented their shortcomings and sins and resolved, by God’s grace to change. They put away differences and became unified. They grabbed hold of the promises Jesus had made, stretching their hand of faith higher and higher. They prayed intensely for a fitness to share the message of salvation. Then, the answer came.

When the Holy Spirit was poured out, it was like Heaven’s floodgates opened, as if a floodlight was shined into their minds. Everything was clear as noon. Unbelief was swept away. They spoke powerfully about Jesus and their faith in Him.

The book of Acts emerges like a Phoenix out of the ashes of these disciples’ former lives. Out of confusion, confidence. Out of fear, faith. Out of dim wits, bright clarity.

In the power of God’s spirit they proclaimed the resurrection of Christ, healed the sick, raised the dead, traveled to the ends of the earth. The “Sun of righteousness” had truly “arisen with healing in His wings” (Malachi 4:2).

But the greatest miracle was their own spiritual resurrection. Christianity is a religion of power–God’s power to change our hearts, make us new, help us overcome what holds us back. Read these verses:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26 NIV

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 NIV

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.” Romans 8:11 NIV

In the last verse, Paul likens our personal spiritual resurrection–the awakening of our mind and heart to the realities of God–to the resurrection of Christ.

In other words, God is willing to exert the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, to raise us from the dead, spiritually speaking, and give us new life. He is not talking only about the resurrection at Christ’s coming, but our spiritual resurrection now.

This was the spiritual awakening the disciples experienced from Resurrection to Pentecost. And God is just as willing to give it to us as to them.

There is no need for us to live in the shadow-lands of faith. We can ask Jesus to give us new birth–new hearts–and new eyes. That is a prayer He loves to answer. To start over. Begin with a clean page. Ready for God to write new things into our hearts and lives.

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A new (spiritual) normal

During the Pandemic and Quarantine, have you had some serious thoughts about what is really important in life? About where this world could be headed? About your need of deeper faith and a closer walk with God?

If you have, that is most likely because God is calling you. Recognize this as His personal invitation. Tell Him what you desire and ask Him to do for you what you can’t do for yourself: to give you a new heart, the ability to understand Him and His words, victory over what holds you back.

Like Jesus’ first disciples, you can awaken to a new life. Because this same Jesus is alive today, and is just as powerful and present as before.

Jesus’ invitation carries all the power we need to get up and follow Him. Why not do it now?
© Nathan Greene, Artist

Lord, Give Us a New Normal – Isaiah 43:19

Everywhere we are hearing the phrase, “The New Normal.” Government and health officials, even church leaders, are saying the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic have been so impactful, they will likely transform the way we do things in the foreseeable future.

The Quarantine has certainly been hard in many ways, but some results will be beneficial.

Yesterday I was talking (properly distanced, of course) with a neighbor who is a teacher. He told me state schools have been planning to use technology more creatively, but the pandemic forced them to implement it and work the bugs out immediately. In his opinion students and schools will be much better equipped for the future by what they have gone through and learned as a result.

Utilizing social media and online platforms, churches have created many new ways for members to connect with each other for prayer, study, and fellowship–and to reach out supportively to their communities.

I joined a morning prayer group begun by our church prayer leader, to worship and pray for our members, our community, and our nation during the pandemic. We have called in at 7 am each morning for over a month so far. My wife and I are new to this church and do not know many people, but listening to these folk pray each day has drawn us closer to God and to them. We feel more a part of the church community as a result.

How is your new normal?

How have you grown during the pandemic? Have you gotten closer to people you love? The Quarantine forced us indoors, meaning we ended up spending more time with our family. Were you able to work through some things in your relationships and come through stronger? Have you identified things you can work on with God in this area? I have.

How has your relationship with God grown? I have heard many are taking stock of their connection to God and church and making changes during this time. Joining the prayer group I mentioned above was because I wanted to deepen my faith and connection with God through community.

Some really special things have happened for me as a result of this prayer time. My faith has grown stronger. I have been less worried about the news and the potential fallout from the pandemic. And even though I still don’t know most of the people by sight, I feel very close to them because of opening our hearts to God and each other.

Getting back to normal

There is a natural desire to get back to normal. We need the income from work; our children miss the structure of the classroom and their friends; we long for the end to disruption and a return to normality.

But are there ways in which you don’t want to go back to the way it was? Maybe you fell more in love with your spouse and family, and you don’t want to slip back into the humdrum again. Maybe you felt called to something deeper with God and found it; and, you don’t want to lose that.

In that sense, we want a “new normal.” We can tell God that, and determine, with His help to pursue it. God is longing for a new normal for you too. The Bible describes Him has a kind, loving Father who deeply wishes for a relationship with us. Though He certainly didn’t cause this pandemic, I imagine He has been wishing that many of his children would turn to Him and come home to His heart. He told Isaiah during a similar time:

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:19

If we feel the desire, that is evidence that God is drawing us to His heart. We can say, “Yes, God I want you to do a new thing in my heart and life. I ask you to make a road in the wilderness of my world and refreshing streams in the wasteland of my life. Renew my relationship with you. Restore my relationships with my loved ones.”

These are prayers He loves to hear and answer.

Seeing with New Eyes

How about asking God for 20/20 spiritual eyesight in 2020? The pandemic has forced us to look at our lives and re-evaluate things. Why not ask God to open your eyes to see what you need spiritually? I have been doing this. That is a first order of magnitude prayer He will answer.

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