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!”

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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.