Death to Life

Death to Life

Romans 6:1-3 (Message) So what do we do? Keep on sinning so God can keep on forgiving? I should hope not! If we’ve left the country where sin is sovereign, how can we still live in our old house there? Or didn’t you realize we packed up and left there for good? That is what happened in baptism. When we went under the water, we left the old country of sin behind; when we came up out of the water, we entered into the new country of grace—a new life in a new land!

Today is Baptism Sunday at our church. There are people who have decided to participate in the symbolic act of baptism, but I wonder if they know the true potential of such a public confession. It is the gateway by which one may enter a “new land” and “new life”. An existence of true repentance marked by a turning over of every dead thing in our life to the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. Oh how I wish they knew how powerful the water can be for those who step in it with such an expectation. Salvation is the beginning of a transformation process that takes a lifetime to complete. It is the moment of realization that sin is killing us and without a Savior there is no chance of life. The next doctrinal step might be a public profession of our faith in Jesus Christ and then baptism. I love the opportunity presented by Paul in this passage and the way the Message explains it to us. It is a form of house cleaning where we lay down our old life, ways, faults, failures and disappointments in order to move into a new one without all the shackles and chains of our past holding us back. A handful of people have signed up to participate in the baptism service today, but I wonder how many more might if they realized the potential of leaving it all behind and moving into the new life Christ promised us.

Romans 6:3-5 (Message) That’s what baptism into the life of Jesus means. When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus; when we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus. Each of us is raised into a light-filled world by our Father so that we can see where we’re going in our new grace-sovereign country.

I grew up in the Baptist church. My little sister has a very soft and sweet heart. I cannot count the number of times she responded to an altar call to repent and start again with Jesus. I know you may be thinking it silly, but I think it is essential. Since when did the altar become a place of shame, where people are chided for coming again and again? I think she was baptized at just about every summer camp. My sister is a mighty woman of God who leads home Bible studies and small groups. She impacts many lives with grace and generosity. She understands the life and power of Jesus Christ because she kept coming until she found what she was looking for. Oh what might happen if the church and its people were open to true repentance and transparency before the Lord again? Not afraid to come forward for prayer and divine healing? Unashamed that they want a new life when this one is not working out for them?

John 7:38-39 (Message) On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says.” (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

When we are lowered into the water, it is like the burial of Jesus…

Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes…” Are you overflowing with Living Water today? Or are you feeling the thirst that comes from seasons of drought – an inner dryness that nothing in this life can seem to satisfy? The Spirit inside of us produces good fruit to nourish and satisfy our soul. There are times when the Spirit of God within us is limited because of the lack of fertile soil – He cannot sow in a hard heart. The Holy Spirit lives in us to change our life from death to life sowing good seeds in fertile soil. Faith produces seeds of potential that must be cultivated to become the promise within each one. It is up to us to provide a place for them to grow, develop and mature into the abundance that the Lord has promised us. Without water, seeds die in the ground. Without the Spirit, the believer cannot move from death to life.

To be lowered in the water is like being buried with Christ, to make an exchange of all the dead things in our life so that they either be washed away or revived again. Sin is washed away along with regret and remorse. Faith is revived in the water and new life begins in that moment for those who believe. We must be buried in Christ with fruitful expectation that His Spirit will take over and produce new life in us all over again. This is not just for the new believer but every other saint of God who has become weary in well doing or overcome by fear, doubt, anxiety or disappointment. The water is for everyone.

Romans 7:3-6 (Message) So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.

When we are raised up out of the water, it is like the resurrection of Jesus.

It is often easier to get caught up in the rules and regulations of our religion rather than live a life true repentance and ongoing surrender to Jesus Christ. I have nothing of worth to give God other than my whole heart. My heart and life are not worthy of His Glory but what God desires therefore enough. We are married to Jesus in the careful exchange of sin and the acceptance of His Grace. When our life is fully reconciled to Christ – all the benefits and blessings associated with our relationship are evident. When we come up out of the water – it is like the resurrection of Jesus and new life begins all over again. There is no Christian who has it all together. There is no preacher, teacher, elder, deacon, or leader that does not fall short of the Glory of God and His Standard of living. No one can live apart from sin and the only hope we have is the resurrection power and life of Jesus Christ to keep us constantly turning in repentance to receive what He died for us to have.

We no longer live under “oppressive regulations and fine print”. We are free to live a new life of freedom in God. Do you live in the perpetual freedom that God offers those who believe? Do you have living water flowing through you today? Have you been baptized? There is no limitation on the water. You can come to the river as often as you like. Repentance is turning. Cycles are circular motions without real results. It may look like revival but it is not. It is repetition. Seasons are the terms and conditions of God’s Productivity. It is the prospering soul that receives all the blessings. A season produces something. It has purpose. It gives provision. In the end, there is an abundant harvest. It is how real revival begins and perpetuates itself. It begins when we surrender every dead thing to new life.

John 5:5-11 (Message) One man had been an invalid there for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him stretched out by the pool and knew how long he had been there, he said, “Do you want to get well?” The sick man said, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” Jesus said, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, “It’s the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll around. It’s against the rules.” But he told them, “The man who made me well told me to. He said, ‘Take your bedroll and start walking.’”

There was a man who had been handicapped for more than three decades. Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?” The man began to make excuses. Jesus told him, “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking. The man did exactly what Jesus said. He didn’t even make it into the water, but received his healing from Jesus right then and there. Immediately the Pharisees began to condemn the man for breaking the rules. It was the Sabbath. You can’t carry your bedroll on Sunday. How many people carry burdens into church and lug them right out afraid to break the rules? Or how many preachers, teachers, elders, deacons, and the like live with heavy chains because they are afraid to come to the altar and be judged by their peers? How many times do we accept death where Jesus promised life just because of our pride? Too often. Jesus gives us the opportunity to exchange every dead thing for new life. He promises to make good of every detail of our life if we would only trust Him. Nothing can every separate us from the Love of God offered in His Son, Jesus Christ. Are you allowing something to separate you?

Seek out new life today. If that comes in the form of baptism when you can lay all these burdens into the likeness of His Death and be raised to new life then jump in with both feet all over again. Jesus didn’t give up His Life so that you would like a dead existence filled with doubt, discouragement, depression, disease or defeat. He came up out of the grave and so can you. You can leave death behind and embrace new life. You can do it as often as you need it. Jesus came to give us life more abundantly. Don’t stop until you receive it no matter what the cost. If that means running to the altar, do it! If that means jumping in the waters of baptism, go! Whatever it takes – let Jesus breathe new life in you again!

John 11:25-26 (Message) You don’t have to wait for the End. I am, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”

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Cross Examination

Cross Examination

Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT) Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 139 is my favorite of them all. The story of creation in the intimacy of the womb with a loving Creator who considered me thoroughly before He gave me a single breath. To know that God’s thoughts concerning me are precious and precise. This was the mirror of hope that gave me new life. To know that God lovingly and intentionally created me with purpose. To realize that my life is a plan proposed with enough love, mercy and grace to get me from here to everlasting life. I have been a believer for more than forty years now. In my teens, a youth worker introduced me to this simple truth. After years of contemplation, I am still completely in awe of God and His Goodness.

Psalm 139:1-6 (NLT) O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

The complexity of God’s Love revealed in the concept that though He examines my heart and knows everything about me…He insists on being with me every step of the way. On my good days, the Lord celebrates with me. On my not-so-good days, He lends an ear to my tearful ramblings catching each salty one in the palm of His Hand. On my bad days, He sees my rebellion yet still insisting to go with me and ready to respond the instant I turn back. His Love for me is unyielding. It is constant. Persistent. Pervasive. It is perfect yet I am imperfect. If God’s Love never fails me and His Grace is enough, why then would I need to examine my heart? Why the cross examination if He knows my faults, failures and weaknesses from the very start?

Matthew 22:37-38 (NLT) Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

The first and greatest commandment. The one that comes with a promise. The only thing that we must do to keep faith alive and hope confident. To love the Lord God with all my heart, my soul and my mind. The second is equally as simple as the first – to love others the same way. I wonder sometimes if we convolute the commandments with religious doctrine full of dos and don’ts because true love with deep conviction cuts our heart. It penetrates our soul intimately. It changes our mind completely. Flesh dies as the heart, soul and mind prosper. The collateral damage is crucified pride. In this selfless, helpless and weakness, our need to survive overshadows God’s Promise to thrive.

God loved the world by giving His Son to die and pay the price for our sin. My sin demanded every drop of Christ’s Blood so that His Grace would be sufficient for me. I was judged by the Glorious Standard set forth before my birth. God sent the Light of His Love to lead me out of the darkness and live in the Light. There is no judgment against anyone who believes. So why must I challenge myself with cross examination if I have been exonerated by the Blood of Jesus Christ? My faith must be genuine. It must be a valid component of who I am and what I believe. Apart from Christ, I am nothing. How is this possible when Psalm 139 describes a creature made fearfully and wonderfully…it is the potential of my faith revealed in God’s Word that precipitates the process of prosperity. As my soul prospers…so will I.

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT) Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. 

Sin will always offend God. Sin separates me from God’s Plan until surrendered to the Cross. The watered down gospel of grace that many hold tightly to will not produce the kind of life according to God’s Glorious Standard. All things are permissible to the believer. Whom the Son set free is free indeed. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom. But not all things are beneficial. If I want the blessings and promises God imparted to me when I was created, I must examine my heart daily. Sin will always cause division. The unmentionables require cross examination. We cannot live a complacent existence but live in a crucified state. It sounds brutal. It seems harsh. People love options. They like to have an opinion. At the end of the day, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. To know Him is to love Him. I cannot do anything to be saved but daily yield my heart, mind and soul to Christ.

For some this will be a message of love, joy and peace as they enter a rest that they have not known. God is less interested in what we do than who we are becoming. If my love is not the product of faith, then it is impossible for anything I do to please God. We must examine our heart each day. Sift through the thoughts that clutter our mind. Surrender our soul the Sword of the Spirit so He can remove the hard exterior and expose the new life within.

I Corinthians 4:3-4 (NLT) As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

What in me offends God? It is easy to be offended by the things of this world and people in it. But I wonder if I focused my efforts on the pieces of my broken heart that do not resemble the faith, love and confidence I have in Christ – I could love more, forgive more, and be more of who God created me to be. What if I evaluated my energy and efforts more than others placing my full expectation in Jesus Christ? Could it be that in my need to compare I have missed the inexpressible joy and perfect peace promised those who trust the Lord? I can only imagine as I examine my heart today what I will find there. Looking into the Word of God – I can see my reflection. Not of the person I am but the new creation that Christ wants to make of me. The fearfully and wonderfully made creation of Christ who will be a masterpiece if I just give Him my all today and every day. I want my faith to be genuine. I long to have a secure future filled with hope. Faith makes all things possible. I just have to believe. I am who He says that I can be. Lord, cross examine me today. Show me what offends you. I give you permission to remove it. Let your Spirit sow seeds of good fruit in its place. In all things Lord, be glorified in my life. Make my faith genuine and hope confident today and every day as I learn to live every aspect of my life in YOU! Less of me and more of You – Jesus!

Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT) As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.

Too Hard

Too Hard

Jeremiah 18:1-4 (NLT) The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.

Modeling clay has great potential. It can become whatever the sculptor desires it to be. When it comes out of the package it is hard and cold. Difficult to shape, it must first go through the rigors of plying and kneading in order to soften it. It may be in the strong hands of the artist or thrown on the potter’s wheel. Spinning endlessly as it is worked into something pliable. The cycle of the wheel perpetuated by the steady foot of the potter. Water is mixed in to make it moist and moldable. This process continues until it completely flexible and changeable. It is only then that it can be useful into becoming the very thing it was meant to be.

So he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.

We are called to become a new creation in Jesus Christ. The purpose of true repentance is the changing of our heart, mind, spirit and soul into the masterpiece. God planned a good life with a future and hope with the promise that He would work every detail of our life for good. There is a process to transformation that requires a certain flexibility in order for the Spirit of the Living God to do His Work in us. God promised that He would complete the work. We must make the commitment to remain on the potter’s wheel. To be gracefully broken again and again until we become a new creation in Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:16-18 (NLT) So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.

Anyone who belongs to Jesus Christ has the potential to become a new person. We do so by reconciling our life to Him through an active and abiding relationship with the Lord. In doing so, one must consider that God is Sovereign. He does not change. He is always right and His Way is always better. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can get to God except through Him. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. The changing is on our part never the Lord’s. The moment God changes His Mind – we have a problem. It is constancy that keeps our confidence firmly in place.

It is human nature to quit when things get too hard. It is our flesh’s desire to live that keeps us from new life. How do we evaluate our heart and mind properly when that which is in conflict is our very nature? As Paul explains no matter how much we desire to do the right thing, we inevitably do the wrong thing. (Romans 7) Brokenness creates an orifice in our life. Something will fill the void. The flesh wants to fill it with pride in order to sustain itself. The Spirit works to fill it with grace so that our life continues to build a strong bond with Christ. It is our job to live in a pliable state in the Hands of the Creator and battle our fleshly desire to survive the transformation process. Grace is only powerful in my weakness and inability to change myself. God has promised to do all the work. I must only submit and surrender my life to Him.

Luke 5:36-38 (NLT) Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites cried out to God. But rather than a relationship with the Living God they decided to remain in the confines of religion. They wanted the Hand of God but did not seek His Heart. How many times do we do the same thing? Try to be a good person, do the right things, be a hard worker, serve tirelessly, and give generously but missing the point altogether? The Hand of God means nothing unless the Heart of God is our desire. The rain falls on the just and unjust. To receive one must only believe that God is able and not doubt His Power and Ability. However, to be complete in Christ means a full offering of self by true repentance and surrender to His Plan wholeheartedly. To allow the Lord to take all of our broken pieces and make the beautiful life that He promised. Nothing is wasted with the Lord. He uses all of our details not only to produce good in us but to resonate His Glory through us.

If our goal in life to live in the Presence of God, our desire is to be completely broken and reconciled to Him. Hardness in the life of the believer is right before the breakthrough. It is the moment that our spirit encounters unyielding flesh and rebellious thoughts that tell us this is too hard and to give up. The moment our flesh screams out in fear and our heart grows weak is the precise time that reliance on God becomes reality in our life. Faith must be tested to be genuine. Confidence left untried cannot be validated. Hope is for that which cannot be seen but accepted as a reality. Impossible is when something miraculous happens. Do things seem impossible right now? Are you considering giving up? Giving in? Walking away from this God thing? What if that which feels like it is going to break you is your breakthrough?

2 Corinthians 4:16-17 (NLT)  That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are[a] being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Psalm 51:17 (NLT) The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

I find that when I think things are “too hard” it is usually because I want my way. Living yoked to Christ only creates tension if I am trying to go my own way, do my own thing, or live contrary to His Word (the way). The hardness is produces from a heart that will not allow further change. It is the opposition with the Holy Spirit that creates pressure inside of me to choose. Will I be a living sacrifice today? Will I choose to give my body, mind and spirit to the Lordship, Authority and Power of Christ or concede the throne of self? God will transform those who are willing and weak but waits on those who are hard-hearted and stubborn. As we cry out to the Lord for more, He will respond and in doing so our old life is shattered to make room for something new. God’s Will is not book knowledge but carefully continuing even when we do not understand or fully comprehend His Method. His Ways are so much higher as are His Thoughts. The only thing of worth that I contribute to this process is a broken spirit that is humble and a repentant heart that turns to God daily for restoration.

The Lord is the Ultimate Potter who only creates masterpieces. He uses the broken heart of His People. He makes beauty from ashes. He is faithful and true. His Grace is always enough. Our weakness is the conduit of change. Our willingness to put our life on the altar again and again until there is no sense of self but overflowing evidence of Christ in us. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Genesis 18:14 (NLT) “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Mark 9:24 (NLT) “I do “believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Catch 22

Change

 

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Christians live in a daily process of change. Those who truly believe and turn to Jesus Christ cannot remain the same and in a relationship with Christ. The evidence of Jesus in us is that we become a new person. The old life is passing away giving way to the new lift that has begun. To be yoked to the Lord means accepting His Way. Therefore, in order to become one with Christ, we must be the ones who accept the new way of life and thinking because He cannot and will not change to conform to our way. There is not a believer out there who would openly admit that they do not want all of Christ but few engage and endure the process necessary to be successful in such an endeavor. When change begins to take place, it usually produces inner turmoil, discomfort, inconvenience and things appear to be out of control. Our flesh and inner being is not okay with it and rebels against it. The human tendency is to escape rather than fully engage in the process of revival, restoration and renewal that the Lord is producing in us to secure the conditions of our present environment. There are many reasons that the church is not thriving mostly intrinsic. The Presence and Power of God is available to us but the catch 22 is called change.

Romans 7:22-24 (MSG) It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The paradox of humanity is the war within our bodies. The inner being called our flesh likes to have its own way and preserve its place of control. God’s Spirit moves in and begins mixing things up. The flesh dies a little each day. It must give way to the change God is producing unless we allow it to maintain full control. Mind, will, emotions and even our body chime in against what the Lord is doing in us. The rebels rise up and if our heart does not stand strong against them – our process remains incomplete. Frustration and discouragement set in.

The Lord uses a process called transformation. He does not use conformation but we must be transformed by Christ. This means change. Change so comprehensively complete that it changes who we are, how we think and what we do. There is no compromise in God’s Vocabulary. He is God. God is not human. He is eternal. He is sovereign. He is constant. He does not lie or change His Mind. (Numbers 23:19) God is everlasting. He is the Creator of all things. He does not grow tired or weary. His Understanding is endless. (Isaiah 40:28) His Thoughts and Ways are nothing like a human being. He is perfect in all of His Ways. When He speaks, His Words are on a mission and will not return to Him until that command is complete. (Isaiah 55:8-11) The ordination of our life including His Plans (Jeremiah 29:11) handwritten before our birth (Psalm 139:16) even the calling the Lord has placed on our life cannot be withdrawn or recanted. (Romans 11:29) He said it and He meant it.

Finally, I would be remiss in not mentioning God’s Unconditional Love and Affection for us is eternal. The constancy of God includes His Great Love for us. God is Love. (I John 4:8) He loved us first. (I John 4:19) He loves us most. He will love us always. His Mercy given to us each new day is evidence of this very thing. (Lamentations 3:22-24) He pursues us through life with goodness and unfailing love all the days of our natural life. (Psalm 23:6) His Son, Jesus, bears the same qualities and traits. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) His Example is set and clearly delineated in the Word of God with an invitation to yoke our life with Him. (Matthew 11:28-29) Every detail of our life has the potential to turn out for our good and God’s Glory based on all these foundational truths and promises concerning God’s Unchangeable Character. (Romans 8:28) He does not change like a shifting shadow. The sun casts a shifting shadow moving according to the natural conditions. However, the Son never changes. God has sent good and perfect gifts for His People including the ability to have a new life and become a new creation. Our flesh dies in the process therefore tries to abort it quickly to save itself.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

Romans 7:25 (MSG) The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

Change is inevitable to achieve a new life, become a new creation and experience godly fulfillment that leads to full satisfaction and contentment in Jesus Christ. Our flesh creates a paradox. Our body, mind, will and emotions are sinful and contradictory to God’s Way. The problem is that God will not change. He will not compromise for you, me or anyone else. He will settle for nothing less than His Best for us. He refuses to leave us in our current state or condition but must see our purpose and potential fulfilled. This is all because of His Love and Goodness. We are His Passion, Prize and Treasure. He will stop at nothing to bless and prosper our life. Even when we whine, complain and give in to the flesh when our body doesn’t like the change the Holy Spirit is producing in us – God will not relent. He will continue to work in us as long as Christ is in us.

Romans 5:1-2 (MSG)  By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that’s not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.

Faith will always be a catalyst of change. To trust God moves us from glory to glory which is a conduit of change. Change is also a crucible which burns away at the things keeping us from experiencing all of God’s Goodness. It is hard to see the forest for the trees as the saying goes. We forget that our life is a comprehensive plan set into motion that will lead us from victory to victory. We are overcomers in all things because Christ lives in us yet fall subject to light and momentary troubles allowing them to stop the momentum of change. Salvation made us right with God. Repentance is the turning each part of our life over to Him. As we do so, change is inevitable. We must embrace change each day or risk hindering the process of full consummation in a thriving relationship with a jealous God who is reckless and extravagant in His Love for us. He stops at nothing to give you His Absolute Best in full abundance.

Romans 5:3-5 (MSG) There’s more to come: We continue to shout our praise even when we’re hemmed in with troubles, because we know how troubles can develop passionate patience in us, and how that patience in turn forges the tempered steel of virtue, keeping us alert for whatever God will do next. In alert expectancy such as this, we’re never left feeling shortchanged. Quite the contrary—we can’t round up enough containers to hold everything God generously pours into our lives through the Holy Spirit!

Every single man and woman of God has days when they question God’s Motives and Intentions. Pressure, pain, and problems make us wonder is God’s Promise really for us. In pregnancy – we wait for the baby to grow, develop and mature into a viable little human. During the birth process, anticipation of fulfillment is close but the real work begins. Right before the baby is born, the woman’s body enters a phase of labor called transition. This is generally marked by the mom’s sudden change in her demeanor. She will say things like “I can’t do this” or “I don’t want to this”. She becomes frenzied and irrational. Usually within minutes, she is holding her precious baby in her arms. If she quit or gave up in that moment, refusing to push her newborn into the world, what would have happened? Maybe you are in transition right now in your spiritual life? Perhaps the Lord is finally birthing that promise that He has grown and developed in you all this time, but it is too hard so you are just want to quit. Impossible is the birthplace of miracles. Does it seem impossible? Does it feel like it’s never going to happen? Are you expecting today?

The Lord is calling out your name today. Like Elijah on the mountaintop, He is asking, “What are you doing here?” The enemy wants you to disengage in this process called change and take the easy way out. It is the moment that he will take fulfillment, contentment and soul satisfaction from you. The moment you give it up to compromise for comfort, convenience or control. Don’t let him do that to you. Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life. Not just forever, but in the land of the living too. You must push, press and endure stopping at nothing to have it. There is no catch 22 for the one who is sold out completely by absolute faith, total trust and confident hope. God will do it. He is able. He is true. The rest, dear one, is up to only you. No more catch 22 or contradictions allowed. Be confident that the Lord who has begun this great and glorious good work in you will complete it!

Philippians 3:12-14 (MSG) I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

Fake Plants

Artificial Plants

John 15:5 (NKJV) “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 

I am a natural born plant killer. When I walk through a garden center or nursery, all the little plants shake in fear that they will be fatefully selected. My thumb is a dark and ominous shade of black. Thank the Lord that I am much better at raising children and pets than the unsuspecting houseplant. About the only safe plant I own would be the one that is planted in our yard where my husband can take care of it. I am not a fan of artificial plants with all the vivid and perfect greenery. I have one little tree in the corner of the house given to me by my mother. It really is beginning to look sad after years of being dusted and vacuumed. Little hands tugging at the fronds. Now a huge puppy who likes to nibble running by. It cannot experience new life and regrowth because it is plastic created in a factory made to look good but produce nothing.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” An illustration of new life, growth, maturity and productivity available by engraftment. The cutting away of our flesh sounds painful and brutal. Engrafting allows us to grow from a new source. In horticulture, it means to insert one tree or plant into another for the purpose of multiplication. The Kingdom of God operates on the principle of sowing and reaping. We sow our life into Jesus Christ. He produces the Kingdom through us. Planting is the pathway of productivity ordained by God. Whatever you plant, you will harvest. You cannot harvest what you do not plant.

“He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”  

The Fruit of the Spirit are clearly identified in Galatians 5:22-23 as “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” But many times, this is not the natural expectation of new or young believers. They come to Christ desiring the things naturally occurring rather than supernaturally produced. It’s only natural. However, to truly flourish and prosper is to live IN Christ. Give up our way of doing things to live disciplined lives hence He produces self-control in us that allows us to truly repent and turn from our old way of life to fully embrace His Gift of new life.

John 15:1-4 (NKJV) “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

Walking through the local Ace, looking for my next victim. Just kidding, I was actually trying to find a crepe myrtle tree for the yard so botanist and horticulturists can put their mind at ease. It was hot and humid outside but then a steady midst of cool water made me look up. All around the covered area a PVC irrigation system periodically watered all the potted plants. The plants will survive in this environment until they are rescued and put in the ground. Once in the ground, the fertile soil will begin to give the plant or tree the nutrients it needs to begin to sprout new growth. The roots will anchor it down so wind and rain will not be a threat. It will be watered from the ground to the sky and all around as natural and man cooperate to produce an environment conducive to growth and prosperity. What was once limited to a contained environment will hopefully begin to grow, develop and mature. God is inviting us to enter the prosperity process of growth but it requires being moved out of the limitations of our natural life and planting ourselves in His Presence. I access such a place through His Son, Jesus Christ. He washed us in the Word. The Word made flesh is Jesus. Now we have true growth potential but we must endure the growth process to actually prosper.

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

Reading some commentary on this passage, I came across a new term. It shook me to my core rattling my roots if you will. Pseudo-believer or false believer. Yikes! How is this even possible? Do I truly believe? Am I growing in Christ or producing a bunch of leaves without fruit? Here is the danger of religion versus relationship exposed as a warning to those who follow Christ. If I do what the Word of God tells me to do, my life will become productive. I will experience increase because I am sowing good seed…God seed. It will do what is sent forth to do in spite of me. God is good. He wants to bless us. Obedience produces blessing and prosperity in our life. Any part of my life partnered with God’s Word will begin to experience a radical change and dramatic shift not because I did anything but when I plant and water with the Word – God gives increase. However, it is possible to walk with Christ but not live in Christ. Prime example – Judas. He was one of the twelve. He heard every word spoken by Jesus, experienced every sign, wonder and miracle with the others and even walked in the Presence of the Living God but did not believe. If I do what the Word says but do not fall in love with Jesus Christ, I can experience a pseudo-relationship called religion. If I fall in love with Jesus Christ and do my best to follow His Teachings and allow His Spirit to produce His Fruit in my life – I am redeemed. I will live in Christ. I will become a true believer worshipping in Spirit and Truth. I will not be separated from Him in the end.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV)  Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

I John 5:2-4 (NKJV) By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

The word “yoke” is the device that joins two or more work animals so that they work together. Jesus invites us to take His Yoke upon us and partner with Him in this life. I must give up my way to go His Way. The promise is that His Yoke is easy and His Burden is light. This does not mean that life is easy and becoming a new creation is not without its struggles, sorrows and suffering because the death of our flesh and old way of thinking is often painful. But when we love God, live in Christ, and strive to keep His Commandments – His Spirit cultivates growth in our relationship. We do things every day out of responsibility. Some relationships such as that with our co-workers is born of responsibility. There are things we do to maintain that relationship because it is our job, duty or responsibility. However, when we yoke our life to Jesus and decide to live in love with Him first, all other responsibilities become His Responsibilities. He takes the lead. It is His Yoke. His Burden. We can have peace that the process is prosperous without worrying, stressing, or fretting about it. We do not have to fear the outcome but simply wait on it. God gets no glory in our death but His Glory shines in our success.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NKJV) For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Are you rooted and grounded in His Love today? Does Christ dwell in your heart? Do you abide in Him today? Fake faith and artificial growth produce nothing but disappointment. It may bring some momentary happiness and temporary blessings but just a fake plant fades with time so will our satisfaction. Sometimes it is easier to take up the responsibilities of religion and do the right thing rather than allowing Jesus to be completely and totally responsible for our life. I cannot become the new creation that He promised and have the rich and satisfying life marked by abundance if I do not surrender my life to Jesus. My heart must bear the Fruit of His Spirit first to live in love with Him. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us. Jesus lives in us. We must focus first on cultivating our relationship with the Lord in order to experience the prosperity and success promised as our soul prospers. Without a prospering soul, our flesh will never be satisfied with the productivity of our life. Jesus is the One who satisfies our soul.

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Life Unveiled

Life Unveiled

Matthew 27:50-52 (NLT) Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead.

It was a game-changing, plot-twisting, and script-flipping moment in the history of humanity. Some would later come to realize the true potential of the moment Jesus released His Spirit that day on the Cross while many would go back to life as usual. On the Day of Pentecost, the same Spirit that reached out and tore the veil in the Temple from top to bottom would come and have His Way in us. Do those words make you a bit uncomfortable? Does intimacy sound like a forbidden word in your Christian conversation? The Holy Inhabitation of Jesus Christ in us and the consummation of His Covenant with us is conceived in just one place – beyond the veil in His Presence. I believe I just might write a book one day to try to express the impact of God’s Presence, His Perfect Peace that defies logic and understanding and His Inexpressible Joy that finds has made His Way to me in the most difficult times. I cannot help tell you again, if but for a moment I could take apart my broken heart and show you the Light that lives there. You would never be the same. You would be changed. You would know in an instant that anything good in my life is the Jesus Christ inside of me. One experience. One encounter and your life can never be the same. For generations, many would desire God but fear of sin and death would keep them just outside the curtain. The High Priest would come and go on their behalf. Where is the hope in a covenant that does not offer life? Where is the potential of a relationship with a man in the middle? It is hard enough to stay married in a partnership of two. Could you imagine if you had to go through a third party to settle disagreements or to apologize? It is difficulty to create intimacy in a crowd. Jesus wanted more. He wanted us. He provided a way for us to step into His Presence and live in a place of constant unity with Him. In return, Jesus came to live in us.

I am a logical person. Things must make sense for me to believe they are true. Until the details add up and the bottom line is balanced, the jury remains out. I am not a person who lives in blind trust. Serving a God who I cannot see, being filled with a Spirit who I cannot touch and to live as part of a Kingdom that I cannot yet enter used to be challenging. Truly, reading God’s Word was a bust for me – I would fall fast asleep. The Holy Spirit was a silent partner locked away in a box. I knew He was in me but had no idea what to do with Him other than respond to the gentle nudges offered from time to time. Prayer. Not the conversation that I expected, but then again the Lord couldn’t get a word in edgewise in the midst of my endless banter. I read a book called “Beyond the Veil” which introduced me to this place called Presence, but I will be darned if I could find my way in despite the “OPEN” sign hanging on the door. Intrigued by the thought and determined in my heart to find this place, I decided to do whatever it took to find my way there.

Exodus 26:31-34 (NLT) “For the inside of the Tabernacle, make a special curtain of finely woven linen. Decorate it with blue, purple, and scarlet thread and with skillfully embroidered cherubim. Hang this curtain on gold hooks attached to four posts of acacia wood. Overlay the posts with gold, and set them in four silver bases. Hang the inner curtain from clasps, and put the Ark of the Covenant in the room behind it. This curtain will separate the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. Then put the Ark’s cover—the place of atonement—on top of the Ark of the Covenant inside the Most Holy Place.

2 Chronicles 3:14 (NLT) Across the entrance of the Most Holy Place he hung a curtain made of fine linen, decorated with blue, purple, and scarlet thread and embroidered with figures of cherubim.

In both the Tabernacle and the Temple, the curtain was hung across the Most Holy Place. This was where the Ark of the Covenant that held the Presence of God – God-In-A-Box. Why was God in the box? The repayment of our sin had not been made. God’s Goodness and Glory would consume any human with sin if released to dwell among the people. Only those who truly lived holy and righteous lives could enter – Moses and the men who were consecrated to be high priests and serve the Lord there. Anyone else would die according to the sin within them. Yikes. The high priests mediated God’s Relationship with humanity going back and forth between them.

When Jesus died on the Cross, the veil was torn from top to bottom. God accepted His Payment for our sin and grace was fully dispensed. His Spirit was not free to come and go spreading life wherever He flowed. Life. Continuously death-overpowering and defeat-overwhelming life. Glorious life. Abundant life. Life everlasting. Life of increase. Life-giving harvest. Life. I think you get the point. Death was defeated. The grave overcome. Life was released and the covenant between God and His People complete. No need for a middle man our Mediator now Jesus Christ.

Exodus 34:34-35 (NLT) But whenever he went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he would remove the veil until he came out again. Then he would give the people whatever instructions the Lord had given him, and the people of Israel would see the radiant glow of his face. So he would put the veil over his face until he returned to speak with the Lord.

I love this part, I really do! When Moses would go into the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord…stop right here for just a second. Moses didn’t go into the Tent of Meeting to “pray” like some people do. You know…you go on and on to God about your problems, troubles, needs, wants, and desires. No, Moses had a relationship with God. When he entered the Presence of God it was with the intent to “speak with the Lord.” I wonder if this is the limitation on our prayer life. We do all the talking with no intent to hear the Voice of God. Let me just leave that right there and keep going.

When Moses left the Tent of Meeting after conversing with the Lord in His Presence, the radiance of God’s Glory on his countenance was visible. You could literally see him glowing. This completely freaked people out for lack of better words. They didn’t understand it. Could not conceive it. Feared God. Feared the man of God. So, Moses put a veil over his face until he entered God’s Presence again. Do we do the same thing? I mean really. Do you live from God experience to experience? Did you know that thanks to Jesus Christ that you can live IN THE PRESENCE every single day?

2 Corinthians 3:7-11 (NLT) The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!

Spoiler Alert! I am about to flood you with 2 Corinthians 3. Why is our life not radiating God’s Glory? If our life as believers shined in a tangible way as Moses face did just from basking in the Presence of God – our words might mean more. Infused with life our message begins to make a difference. Confidence in our covenant with God begins by our willingness and desire to seek His Presence. I pass by businesses all the time with “OPEN” signs and even “WELCOME” signs but I do not go inside. Churches open their doors with free admission and come-as-you-are invitations yet many seats remain empty and altars unused. Why? Where is the radiance of God? If this new way given to us in Jesus Christ is that much better, why isn’t our life any better? If He offers new life, new creations, new anything at all then why are we living the same old way?

2 Corinthians 3:12-15 (NLT) Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.

The new way gives us such confidence that we can be very bold. Does it? Are you confident today? Confident in what? Confident in God’s Love, His Goodness, and His Faithfulness. See becoming truly confident in this hope that is given to us will make faith rise up out of us as a tangible substance in our life. This confidence never leads to disappointment as it is the hope that anchors our soul. These are just words on a page to some but that can all change with an encounter with the Lord today. Not in a church full of people, sobbing and wailing at an altar but simply grabbing a cup of coffee, opening God’s Word, and sitting in His Presence. Yes, turn off all the noise, put away the cellphone, and lock the door. This is His Time. It is an intimate experience for those who decide the Lord is worth having. To strip off the veil requires confidence. It will require trust. Giving our heart, mind, body, soul, time, talent and treasure to Jesus Christ is an offering not a requirement. The decision to do so produces a relationship that has nothing to do with religion or ritual. It is personal. It is private. It is perfection.

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT) But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

The Spirit of the Lord gives us freedom. As believers, we choose the depth of our intimacy with the Lord. It is not a requirement to live in His Presence or shine with His Glory. He gives us the opportunity. I write insurance policies for a living. I do not sell them but help develop the contracts. The insurance business is regulated by the state government. If an insurer wants to change anything in the contract, it must be reviewed and approved by the Department of Insurance. After beginning this new adventure, I realized there was more to my homeowners insurance than I realized so I pulled out the contract and read all the provisions again. What if we are missing important benefits of our new covenant? What if there are blessings and promises that belong to me that I am not taking full advantage of? I have the Word of God but it doesn’t always make sense or seem real. I have the Holy Spirit, too. However, what might happen if I pursued Presence?

What if I stepped through the veil now torn in two and decided to spend quality time with Jesus rather than random stolen or leftover moments from my day? What if I gave a consistent offering of my life? What are the possibilities? Nothing would be possible if you believed enough to try it. You cannot reflect a Glory you have not experienced. Like a solar light must soak in the sun to give light in the dark, I cannot effectively reflect a Light that has not saturated my life. How can I love others without His Love? How can I live for Him without knowing Him? How can I share a message that I have not heard or do not believe? I can’t. God is offering us a place in His Presence again today. New mercy will open the door again tomorrow, but wait to do tomorrow what could be done today. The Lord, His Spirit, will make us into the new creation as He makes us more like Him. We will have all the Fruit of His Spirit. We will have a rich and satisfying life here in the land of the living just like He said. It all begins with the decision to live a life unveiled and step into His Presence.

Psalm 16:11 (NLT) You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.

Just Turnaround

Just Turnaround

Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT) As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.

In a Bible Study, the speaker said, “Cancer is a cell unwilling to change.” I tucked it in the back of my mind for a bit. The recent news of cancer scares, chemotherapy appointments, “pink nightmares” and another diagnosis have me contemplating cancer and change. Our son has scans next month that will determine if the cells in his body remain in check. I believe the bone marrow transplant and Hand of God upon him are doing their job but my heart grieves for all who have awakened in this nightmare, living the bad dream or trying to make sense in the aftermath. The last couple of weeks have been overwhelming. It seems that ever since our son’s journey ended, I have been struggling to decide what a “normal” life looks like or if there is such a thing. Something happened during that time. Something inside me changed forever and now I am learning to live in it. To survive the ordeal of a horrific and traumatic illness threatening the life of one of my children, I had to fully step into Christ. My whole being – body, mind, spirit and every single piece of my crushed heart had to be surrendered to find my next breath.

The perspective of my life has changed. My goals and aspirations are much different. Just like you, I see my future one way and when life takes a turn it causes stress and worry to fill my mind. As the pressures of life began to weigh me down, I started to complain and resist in an outward display. Challenged to find a solution or quit my job, I went to the Lord. You know what He told me? I had to change. God doesn’t see our life and all the problems. He sees my potential. The purpose for which He created me and the plan designed specifically for my life. It is not dependent on the variables around me but it all works together for my good. If I can keep my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of faith and remain yoked to Him – life and power belong to me. His Grace is always enough. I have to change…no one else and nothing else but me.

John 3:30 (NLT) He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

A quick and simple lessen about cancer from a novice perspective. Cancer is just another cell in the body. The problem is it doesn’t come pre-programmed with the life sustaining power to change. It is rogue. Rogue means no longer obedient, belonging or accepted and hence uncontrollable. It becomes a renegade. If you think about it, cancer never wins. For death is to kill its own source of life. It is suicidal in its mission. For if medicine doesn’t stop it or the Hand of God does not immediately heal it – it kills itself by ending the life of its human source. Cancer is basically a disease of uncontrolled cell division. Cells come with regulators that are overridden in a cancer cell. It does not have the safe limits built in that tell it how to grow and develop normally in the human body. Cancer cells make their own rules and growth factors. They are stuck in the “on” position. They ignore the innate signals from the body designed for healthy growth and development. How many times do I allow my flesh to override the Spirit? The Lord is working in me to make me a new creation and produce new life yet in my impatience and unwillingness to change cause a delay in my development. What if the lack of progress towards fulfillment of my purpose is me?

Repentance is turning back to God. It is not a mandate for change. I can do nothing to make my life better. Repentance leads to salvation which is an act of submission. It is to surrender every “cell” of my body and fiber of my being to the redemptive, restoring, renewing and renovating Power of Christ. To allow Him to improve my standard of living to God’s Glorious and Life-Giving Standard. I can do nothing apart from Christ. But in Christ, I have everything I need to grow, develop and mature my purpose. The only parts of my life that will not be renewed, restored and revived are those unwilling to change. The process of transformation is change. Not a change I can produce, but the One the Lord will if I give every part of my life to Him.

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. 

At one point in our son’s fight against cancer, the doctors discussed his participation in a clinical trial for immunotherapy. Essentially they take some cells from a patient with active cancer and teach the immune system to fight back. We didn’t enter the trial but instead he was approved for a bone marrow transplant which took some of his cells after chemo-blasting as much cancer out of his system as possible and storing them for later use. He entered the hospital and for weeks they killed every cell they could without killing him and then reintroduced the clean cells to take over. They did and our son is alive today despite only having a 2% chance of survival. He is a living, breathing miracle. Though he celebrates victory day by day, there are still challenges in his post-cancer life. A review of systems provides a lengthy list of side effects from the disease and treatment alike. He requires medications and monitoring of certain health conditions. He is still dependent on his medical team which leads me to this point – you will always need Jesus. In fact, the more you grow, the more you will come to know that He is Your Life Source.

Sin will take over in the absence of Christ. Rogue behaviors will surface from our past. Flesh will rise up to overtake us in weakness. Our mind will play tricks on us as the enemy tries to convince us that God is not good, or He has forgotten a single promise. The enemy wants you to believe that the Grace of God is not enough. The truth is friend it is more than enough to make it through each day triumphantly even in the midst of trial or tragedy. We must only be willing to repent (turnaround)to face the Lord and allow Him to live, move and breathe in us. There is no condemnation in Christ. Someone needs to hear that today and understand. God sees sin as cancer. He has the cure. Just turn around and let His Unfailing Love and Goodness overtake you – this is when death becomes life, potential results in purpose, and you will experience Him from glory to glory.

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT) Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Jesus didn’t come to save the world. He came to save us. You. Me. Everyone. To think that He came to save the world would be like Christ draining the ocean to keep our feet planted on the ground. No. Faith is not needed in such a case. It is when water is all around us and still our heart beckons us to come. Jesus says, “My grace is all you need…today.” No matter what you are facing or how good the day may seem – we all need His Grace and Mercy to continue the transformation process that all believers are undergoing. We much know that His Power works its absolute in our weakness. Why else would the prideful be warned of a fall? It is in that moment when Christ is enough that our life is immediately changed for the better and life released in the midst of such a declaration. This is the Gospel of our life. To let Christ have His Way in every area. It is not a choice attributable to anything that I can say or do but in the choice to let Him have His Way and fill every space and void in my life. Sometimes it is releasing my expectation to fully embrace His Promises which are always more than I can think or ask. Is it possible to take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and troubles – yes it is. The power to change lives within us. Christ is enough. I just have to believe it to receive it. To believe it means that each and every day – I must repent (turnaround) and embrace the Christ in me and the life He is producing.

2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NLT) So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

I made a startling realization this week. Okay, I am not going to lie I come to this every time. When I am stressed, anxious, worried, and overwhelmed – I begin to release the pressure by taking it out on those around me. I find myself complaining and grumbling. I become exhausted and given to tears. Time and time again…I hear the Lord whisper – “Hey, My Grace is still enough for you.” I turnaround and find Him right there where He always was with a Handful of Goodness and Heart full of love that the Lord is ready to lavish on me. I only have to turnaround from doing things my way and holding to my expectations to receive it. Jesus always gives me joy and peace that is indescribable without fail. I want to be a new creation. I want the new life I am promised. I am all too human just the same. When I find my life overwhelming, it is then that I realize I am the one who got turned around. I am the one doing it my way according to my will. The overwhelming feeling inside me is desperation mixed with unmet expectation that reminds me – Christ is all I need and He lives in me.

Stop evaluating your life according to those around you. Your Purpose and Plan are designed specifically and exclusively for you. This is not a competition. God has no favorites. Everyone has the potential and promise to be a Child of the Living God by accepting Jesus Christ. Everyone. You have the opportunity to put your old life of shame, regret, lack and discontentment behind and fully embrace the new life Christ died for you to have including full freedom and soul prosperity that somehow makes its way into our life as increase. What if all you have to do is stop doing it your way and let Christ have His Way? Could it be you are trying too hard rather than depending fully on Jesus? The Lord stands right behind you. He is ready, willing and able to change your life beginning with you. Will you just turnaround?

Psalm 23 (NLT) The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

The Undoing

Onion.

Romans 8:1-2 (NLT) So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

I seldom use onions in recipes but when I do I handle them with care. Peeling off the paper-like covering, to reveal the pearly white surface releases the distinct odor of the onion. However, once you cut into it – the onion fights back as oils are released into the air that irritate our eyes producing seemingly endless tears. A trick to eliminate the tears is to cut the onion under running water. This causes the oils to be rinsed away and keep them from reaching the tear duct. Fancy trick I learned from my grandmother. You can learn a lot from grown folks. You can learn a lot about life in Christ from an onion, too.

Salvation is only the beginning of discovering our newfound freedom in Christ. Redemption is to take full advantage of the gift given to us by the Grace of God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Christianity and the pursuit of Christ also will produce many tears in our life. As the Lord peels back the layers of sin, shame, regret, guilt and stinking thinking, the aroma and stench of death leaving us to make room for new life, new hope, and new freedom causes tears to be released. Our life is going to produce an aroma of some kind. Will it be a fragrant sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving while claiming God’s Gift or will it be the continued stench of rotting flesh taking over again? It really is up to you and me what kind of life that is produced after coming to Jesus inviting Him to be our Savior. It is in His Lordship that a whole new existence is possible free from the chains, bondage and slavery of this life to claim freedom.

John 8:36 (NLT) So if the Son set you free – you are truly free.

Do you feel free today? Are you singing a freedom song? There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ so who the Son sets free is free indeed. The word condemnation means to pronounce guilt. It is an unfavorable or adverse judgment. It means to pronounce unfit for use or service. To force. It is to declare incurable. None of these qualities exist in the character of Christ concerning you. He is intent on freeing you from every thought, suspicion or notion that you are bound, hindered or restricted in any way, shape or form. He says that you are free…completely free…totally free. You are free to win. Free to live. Free to prosper. Free to grow. Free to love. You have absolute and complete freedom in Jesus Christ. You own Him nothing. He gave you everything. So why the long face and heavy heart today?

Christians do not experience freedom because they cannot accept the free gift of God’s Grace completely. There must be a catch. So like a prisoner who has been imprisoned far too long, the door is unlocked but they will not reach out their weary, tired, oppressed and fearful arm to open it and walk out. Jesus has set you free today. Free from sin, worry, despair, self-loathing, religion, and more You are free indeed to do as you please with this new life you have been given. What will you use your freedom for today?

Life is like an onion covered in many layers. I am like an onion who as I have grown older in life taken on many layers that do not necessarily belong to me in Jesus Christ. I wear them proudly and hold them tightly. When the Lord comes to make something beautiful out of my life, I refuse to let go of the known to take a faithful chance on the future. What lies just beneath the surface of me that He is trying to get to? We do not like brokenness and fear the cut of pruning. It produces many tears in our life. But I know a trick that I want to share with you (again) that my grandmother shared with me…you gotta run it under the water!

Romans 8:26-30 (NLT) And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

The Holy Spirit is our partner when it comes to attaining the freedom offered in Jesus Christ. We need His Help. This is way too complex and comprehensive for my finite thinking and limitations of the human mind. I need His Wisdom and Guidance to wash over me and renew me as I endure the process of change from death to new life. As the Word cuts to the core of my heart, pruning out sin, eradicating the flesh that keeps me from growing, it is His Spirit that washes my wounds, heals my heart, nourishes my soul and nurtures my growth. The Holy Spirit is water the water that keeps me in those times when I don’t feel free or try to shut myself up captive in fear, doubt and worry again.

The Holy Spirit takes God’s Word and waters me with it. My family is not too big on raw onions. So often when I cook, I use the dried minced onions from the spice aisle instead. This is very convenient but not as flavorful. It lends some of the taste to a recipe but not the full flavor of a freshly cut onion. Now if you take a raw onion and cook it, something changes. The flavor changes and becomes sweeter as the texture softens. This takes longer than just grabbing an onion and cutting it up. We give food time to cook but refuse to give any credence to God’s Timing and Preparation when it comes to us. The onion is only one ingredient in the recipe. Brokenness is only a part of the process. With patience and time, the onion is going to work with all the other flavors to produce a delicious dinner.

God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His Purpose. His Purpose. His Recipe. His Design. This means that you are only seeing a small part of a huge picture. You are in a single step of a perfect process. Do not judge your future or forever by the tough situation, hard time or heart break you are going through right now. It is part of a beautiful masterpiece that the Lord has designed your life to be. “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had the veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord – who is the Spirit – makes us more and more like Him as we are changed into His Glorious Image.” (2 Cor. 3:16-18)

Colossians 3:10-14 (NLT) Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.

There is no condemnation in Jesus Christ. Any part of our life lived in bondage is not of God or His Son or His Spirit. Sin doesn’t condemn us anymore. Sin happens so repentance is given so grace may be applied. Those who love the Lord will try not to sin. Love is the best motivator for repentance. Change comes more easily surrounded in purpose. It is my passion and pursuit to live in the Kingdom of God. I live in Florida. If I get in my car intent on traveling to Canada, I must go north. If I go south, I will fall into the ocean. If I go east or west the same thing will happen. My vehicle is faith. Faith is the title deed to hope that is the Kingdom of God. I must head in that direction if it is my chosen destination. With that being said, religion often adds extra layers of “things” I must do and rules to follow. My relationship with Jesus Christ is not dependent on religion or anything or anyone else. My relationship is intimate and personal. I am committed to Jesus Christ so I strive to be close to Him. To come closer means certain layers of my life have to go. Those things can hurt and produce many tears but it is full assumption of my freedom to undergo the transformation. Beauty is pain. I believe it. Letting go of how life defines me to grab hold of my destiny.

True freedom is to fully assume your new nature. To be renewed body, mind and spirit to become like Christ. It doesn’t matter what religion you belong to because it is all about our relationship with Jesus that matters. God chose to love me. It is my privilege to remove the layers of life and take on the splendor of His Kingdom. To be clothed in tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. To form strong bonds and build relationships with my brothers and sisters. To forgive and off the grace that I have so generously been given. To love and love some more. The freedom that I have is found in His Love. As I discover just how “wide, long, high and deep” His Love really is, it is then that I am able to see just how free I really am.

It is hard to remember in the midst of hurt, hardship and trials that our life is part of something bigger than what we see, know and experience every day. It is also difficult to fully understand and therefore accept that God’s Love is completely unconditional and His Grace never ending. It is with this in mind that I am reminded today I am free. I have been freed from sin, shame, guilt, and every other kind of bondage that exists in the world today. I am a soul set free in the One I love. I am destined to be part of something much bigger. To fulfill my position will be my complete undoing as God peels back the layers that keep me from fulfillment and becoming exactly who He created me to be. Brokenness will come. Tears will fall. It will be my undoing. But it will be worth it – it will be worth it all!

Ephesians 3:17-19 (NLT) Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

All Things New

All Things New

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV) “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 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.”

The Lord is doing a new thing. Each day waking up to a body filled with breath is a sign that there is more to life than what was experienced yesterday yet to be fulfilled. Even on those days that seem ordinary, plain or repetitive, there is the possibility for something new to happen and change to occur. Change is uncomfortable. A life of faith is difficult for our flesh that is suspect of all things based on life’s experiences. It’s hard to trust a God who cannot be reached with any of the five human senses. But every day there is the possibility of new life, new love, new purpose, new things and becoming a new creation in spite of ourselves.

When the idea of moving began to circle in our minds as the Holy Spirit nudged our hearts, my husband made the comment “wouldn’t it be great if we could pick up our house here and move it to there.” I have to laugh because God loves my husband. When he expresses a desire, the Lord always finds a way to grant it to this humble man who would do anything for his family. We bought a house in the next county that is the same floorplan as the old one. Crazy, I know. There are some subtle differences between the old house and new. Changes that I would have made in the other are already made. Our new house needs some love and attention which we are glad to give. It would be easy to try to make this house just like the old one since the structure is the same but it seems that in every room something has turned out a little bit different.

We are called to be a new creation in Jesus Christ. To be a new creation requires uncomfortable change. Moving was not fun. It was exhausting and overwhelming. The enemy definitely tried to deter us from following God’s Plan and I would be a liar to say that I did not try to give up about three times in the process. It was the Holy Spirit reminding me that God wanted to do a new thing and in fact was doing it that kept me fighting the good fight of faith. What about you? Are you determined to be transformed into a new creation today? Do you want what God wants and predestined for your life? Isaiah tells us that to do so, “forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.”

The Lord is doing a new thing. Our life from salvation to redemption is marked by perpetual change. We decide what change will look like in our life. It is called freedom. God has created us and called us to become righteous and walk in His Glory until we meet Him face-to-face. But if we choose not to take advantage of His Love, Mercy and Grace by becoming reconciled to Christ – it will not happen. New life is a choice lived every day.

Isaiah 42:6-9 (NIV) “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”

Isaiah 42 begins with a description of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the foundation of the new covenant and call to righteousness that allows us to have a new life. In verse 9, the Lord declares “new things” to come. We have a purpose. (Psalm 139:13-18) There is a plan in place with a future and hope. (Jeremiah 29:11) We are called to righteousness. God’s Grace given to us in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus allows its dispensation. We are granted freedom to choose to love and live for the Lord or go our separate way. Covenant is partnership. It is relational. We cannot have a new covenant with Jesus and maintain our old partnership and bondage to sin. The two are not conducive to one another. The Lord allows us to choose who we will serve. The only catch is that unlike the world that allows compromise, the Lord requires commitment. New life is in the New Covenant. New things come to those who commit their way to Christ.

2 Corinthians 3:6-10 (NIV) He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory.

Does the Glory of God shine in your life? Are you prospering body, mind and spirit? Physically, mentally, spiritually and financially? Not only do we live in a new covenant with the Lord, but we are called to be ministers of the new covenant. How glorious is your life? Does your countenance reflect a change that has penetrated your heart, changed your mind and renewed your spirit? If not, it can! Righteousness allows the Glory of God greater than Moses ever knew to be expressed in our life. What is righteousness? Right standing with God. The ability to come into the Presence of God again through the grace provided by Jesus Christ. To pursue righteousness is our willingness to obey God and submit our life to the Lord so that we can be reconciled to Jesus every day.

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

We have this natural inclination that coming to Christ should cause a drastic and immediate change in our condition and circumstances. When everything is not immediate, the enemy rushes in to tell us that God is not real. His Love is conditional. His Grace runs out. His Mercy does not come each day. The new creation has come. Creation is a process. It took the God of the Universe seven days to create the world we know. If we look at 2 Peter 3:8, maybe it will change our perspective on creation just a bit. It says that God created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh. Well according to this scripture, “with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” Humanity impatiently puts a timeline on the work of God in their life when His Idea of time is much different. God knows the plans that He has for us and is in no hurry to rush the process for our convenience but rather will wait until it is complete lacking no good thing.

What is the process of becoming a new creation? Does it magically happen? Do I have to do anything? According to 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, we must reconcile our life to Christ. Every single layer of our existence submitting to His Lordship and surrendered to His Love. It is a commitment to righteousness that allows nothing to come between us and Jesus. It is a swift consumption of the new mercy that He provides every new day. (Lamentations 3:20-26) How can I a wrecked human being full of imperfect traits and flawed character ever be one with Jesus Christ? His Grace is enough for me.

Ezekiel 36:25-30 (NIV) I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 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. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.  I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine.

“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. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.” In our submission and surrender to the Lord, we are given His Grace and Mercy. The sacrifice that Jesus Christ made allows us to have God’s Glory in our life but will never force us to reach out and take it. The Lord will give you a new heart in exchange for the hard one. He will give you a new spirit but you must be willing to crucify your flesh. It is not a matter of can God but will you today?

The blessings of God are predetermined for our life. It is simply our willingness to follow Jesus and do what His Word says that gives us access to the prosperity preordained for us. The blessing of a new heart and new spirit is a new life. You will become a new creation. It doesn’t mean that every condition or circumstance in your life will change. You were born with a purpose. God ordered your life to fulfill that same purpose. Your potential did not hinge of salvation but is released by it. God loved you when He made you. He had big plans for you in your mother’s womb. He loves us first. By reconciling our life to Christ, we open ever door and window to the contents of Heaven so it will pour out on our life in His Glory as God always intended but sin stopped up.

Luke 5:36-39 (NIV) He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’”

Although we live in a house that looks just like our old one, it is different. The floorplan is flipped. I find that when I go to open the refrigerator, I am actually walking into the pantry. I will reach for light switches that are not in the same place anymore. When we come to Jesus Christ, He makes His Home in our life. He prepares us for the new thing that He is doing in us. We want the Glory of God to fill our life, but first our life must be prepared to receive it. We tend to search for the Lord yet try to maintain our old way of life. New life and new levels in the Lord will always require movement on our part. Our human condition requires a process to be fully redeemed. We cannot contain all that the Lord is doing in us and through us from the start. If we want new wine, we need new wineskin.

The process of change that God provides is transformation. It is the daily submission of us to His Plan, His Purpose, and His Process that releases the Glory of God in our life. If the Lord were to fill us right now with all His Love, Grace and Goodness for us – it would completely consume us. We would burst on the inside. The Lord will not force His Affections or it would not be love at all. Love cannot be forced it must grow. Jesus renews us day by day so more and more of His Glory can fill us and be expressed from our life. He changes us. He lives in us.

Do you want a new life? Do you desire to become a new creation? Do you need a change of heart or renewed spirit today? It has already been decreed over your life, you must simply learn to walk in it. It requires leaving the past behind including religion, tradition, guilt, shame and every other thing that links us to the past. Sin must also be left in the sea of forgetfulness washed in His Blood. We must move closer to God and learn to live in His Love. It is a process because His Love is greater than anything that a human being has ever experienced. When the Lord prospers our life, no part is left untouched. As our soul prospers, it produces a fruitful life. The wilderness always has a way. The wastelands have hidden waterfalls. The Lord will lead you to them if you are committed wholeheartedly in pursuing Him. Nowhere in the Word of God do I find solace that pursuing Jesus and living for the Lord is easy but I can testify that it is always worth it.

Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Happy Transformation Day

Happy Transformation Day

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

July 23, 2014 will forever be a day celebrated by our family. It was on that day that our son received his bone marrow transplant. After years of cancer relapse and treatment, one desperate attempt to save his life worked. On that day, everyone who followed our son’s story and supported him in prayer wore our favorite football team’s colors and joined Team Unconquered. I was hoping for a reprieve but God blessed him with remission. The medical team told us that transplant day when they give you bone marrow to rebuild your blood and body is like a second birthday for it gives new life again. For our boy, it would best to think of it as his third birthday. The first in May when he came into the natural world, the day that he was born into God’s family, and then transplant day. Two years later, he is actively pursuing his degree in college full-time. Just an ordinary guy on an extraordinary journey loved by a God who couldn’t bear to leave him as he was but saw fit to transform him into a walking miracle.

As I think back over the last five years of our life, things have changed significantly. Down to just two kids at home, it is a whole lot quieter around here. Turning 50 has proven to be uneventful except for a new job, a new house, and new people in my life. Some of the very same people who cheered our son across the finish line are now in the battle for themselves. The most obvious difference to me is me. I am changed…for the better in some crazy way. I don’t complain as much as I used to. I notice the little things. I am way mellower than before. I have learned to wait thought I still have a long way to go. I have decided that it is in our complete undoing that we are molded and shaped by the Hand of the Lord. Broken hearts are soft hearts. Unfulfilled expectation only lead to the pursuit of satisfaction. Again just as the Lord could not bear to leave our son in his sickness, He cannot leave me in my mediocrity. When I cry out for more, He works to make room for all.

James 1:17 (NLT) Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.

I believe that is our inability to fully comprehend the goodness and perfection of God our Father that hinders us from full acceptance of His Gifts. Too many times, it is easy to compare the Lord to the other people in our life and the expectation formed on their faithfulness to us. I know that there are times when our kids want what they want but we have already purposed in our heart to do more. If there is a wait time associated or work that must be done, they become impatient. They do not want to be inconvenienced or made uncomfortable so they settle for they can see.

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father. This passage reminds us today that God is intent on giving us His Very Best. In fact, it is His Decree over our life. The prodigal son is an excellent example. Everything his father belonged to him. He had to do nothing but remain in his father’s house to enjoy everything that was his. The son decided that he wanted to go his own way, so he took the portion that was his squandering it quickly. When he could take it no more, he decided to go home and become a servant. But his father had other plans and he was welcomed home. This is our story depicted through others.

God gave us everything in the Garden of Eden. The very thing that was kept from us was not out of selfishness but to keep us secure. We wanted more and took it forging off to journey through like making our own way. Sin proved no match for us so God gave His Only Son to repay our debt and give us our freedom again. When we come back to the Father as a servant, He molds us and shapes us into a beautiful bride to become His Children again through a spirit of adoption.

Hosea 2:14-16 (NLT) “But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt. When that day comes,” says the Lord, “you will call me ‘my husband’ instead of ‘my master.’

My relationship with the Lord changed in the “Valley of Trouble”. It was in complete desperation and total devastation that God was able to begin to transform my life again. New life is a lifelong process. If you are dry, thirsty, broken or done, it’s not over. He is with you. Jesus is waiting on you to come to Him. He whispers to you. Here is the thing: Freedom will not allow the Lord to force you to come closer, claim your blessing or step into your promise. It is 100% up to you. If you decide to wade in the gray and live in the middle of the road, He will wave from the sidelines trying to get your attention but He will not drag you off into His Goodness. Jesus wants to win you back but not as a servant but beloved bride.

Psalm 23:4-6 (NLT) Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will be afraid for you are close beside me. I have experienced this kind of companionship with the Lord. It is an awesome peace that I must learn to maintain outside of crisis. How? Your rod (discipline) and staff (instruction) protect and comfort me. Discipline is created by the Holy Spirit who cultivates the fruit of His Spirit including self-control. His Instruction is His Word. Jesus said that true worshippers do so in “Spirit and Truth.” Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life – no one comes to the Father except through His Son. We pass through the “Valley of Trouble” and move past the darkest valleys. In the meantime, the Lord prepares a feast for us right in the enemy’s face. Doesn’t the Word of God tell us that He came to give us a rich, satisfying life. His Goodness is to be experienced in the land of the living. You are anointed. David was as well. It took years for David to fully realize his calling and step into royalty. David had a heart set on God so he waited for Him. David made mistakes. He didn’t always make the right choice, but his love for the Lord kept him moving toward the throne.

Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life and I will live in the House of the Lord forever. The Valley of Trouble has a way of stretching the perspective of our life from here to Eternity. Heaven becomes just a little sweeter each time a loved one crosses over there. It is in that moment when we lose all control and cannot change the circumstances, conditions or complications of life into resolution when we move just a little closer to the Lord. You will never be able to pursue the Lord wholeheartedly with only half your heart. His Goodness is perfect. His Grace is enough. God works in the realm of constant purity and truth. He operates in perfection. We do not so just a little of God’s Love is so much sweeter than anything we have experienced before and changes our life for the better so we become comfortable rather than committed to the process of change called transformation.

Galatians 6:14-16 (NLT) As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God.

During the process of preparing for the transplant, there are several meetings set to make certain that you understand the profound risk associated with destroying all your bone marrow in order to give life renewing stem cells to produce new healthy ones. There is a period of time when the patient is severely immune-deficient. We had two options – no transplant and his imminent death or do the transplant with a 2% chance at life. Where is the choice?

We are given a choice each day to serve God or not. Life or death. Blessing or curses. It is our choice to carry our cross and crucify our flesh that allows the God in us to grow into divine direction and better choices. His Grace is enough for all the times that I fail. His Mercy says, “Good Morning! All things are possible to those who believe!” I must make the choice to be my Father’s Child and live in His Presence. I must be aware of the substitutions and compromises that are offered to me each day waiting the perfect and good gifts that God has promised for me.

I don’t think a life of transformation is a much different process than a transplant. See I have the right to choose. I choose life over death each day. I have met some people with cancer who decided they did not want to lose the time they had left fighting it. There were some who fought for just enough time to walk their daughter down the aisle or hold their newborn grandchild. We get to choose if we fight the good fight of faith. We are created and called to be new people of God. We approach as humble servants, who He elevates to His Children.

2 Corinthians 5:13-17 (NLT) If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit. Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

“A new life has begun.” Are you walking in the newness of life today? Or is it just normal life? You are filled with the Living God as a believer. Your declaration today can be greater is He who lives in me than he that is in the world. Two years ago, I held my breath as people sang, “Happy Birthday” to our son just before giving him the stem cells. I didn’t know what might happen next. I couldn’t see the outcome. I didn’t celebrate in that moment. I simply said, “God Your Will be done.” God’s Will is always for our blessing and benefit. God’s Word is filled with promises that should have us racing after Him. God’s Way is Jesus who promises to ease our burden and make it light when we yoke our life to His Plan. We don’t do any of these things. Why? We don’t believe.

The medical team believe firmly as do I that part of the reason our son made it through five cancer diagnoses and subsequent treatment was his mindset. He never got mad or sad and didn’t complain. He endured. By faith, he believed that God wanted to heal his body so he was willing to just walk it out. There are a whole lot of people who claim to have faith but have never really had it tested. There are others who in the test forfeited faith as too hard. I believe that in every season of life our faith is tested so we can be transformed. What I believe in my heart will be evidenced in my life. If we could just wrap our head around the fact that God is good and His Will perfect, I believe we would see the signs, wonders and miracles that He promised. Rather than sitting in the Valley of Trouble, maybe if we forged ahead by faith instead of being held captive by fear. Today is Transplant Day another birthday for our son, it could be a new birth, new life, and new season day for you too. Happy Transplant Day, buddy! Today can be a Happy Transformation Day for you, too! Just believe! To God be the glory! Great things He has done!

2 Corinthians 3:9 (NLT) If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God!