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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My Broken Heart

My Broken Heart

Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT) And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

My office is located across the street from a hospital. They have an amazing cafeteria with an abundance of choices for an extremely reasonable price. Finding favor with the staff provides heaping portions and an employee discount due to our frequent visits. Standing in line for the fry cook, a group of doctors stream in behind me. While waiting they begin to discuss the afternoon surgery schedule and procedures. I have a background in medical transcription so it is clear within minutes that they are cardiologists. Heart doctors grabbing a quick bite to eat before saving lives and restoring hearts for the rest of the day. Placing  their orders, I had to chuckle under my breath. You would think that someone who fixes broken hearts each day would avoid high carbs and fried, fatty food but quite to the contrary. In fact, none of them want the “veggies” on their double cheeseburgers just meat, cheese and grease. Such a contradiction, but no condemnation as I grab my own burger and fries on the way out.

I have been praying to the Great Physician for my own heart. When things don’t add up in my life, it is the first order of business to do a self-check. Comparing the contents of my heart, mind, will and emotions for anything contrary to God’s Word, His Will or His Way. He doesn’t change. He cannot tell a lie. What He says, He will do every single time. Therefore, when something seems amiss, it is usually in me. It could be my impatience or lack of understanding. Sometimes there are things in my heart taking God’s Place. Other times I have allowed doubt to begin to dull me from the inside out.

As I prayed, I began to see an image unravel in my head. A church full of people holding their hearts in their hands. The music was playing. An altar call given to all the broken to be restored again. No one came but instead held the pieces of their own broken hearts praying for others around them hoping no one else could see their offering withheld. Suddenly, I became aware that those people and I had something in common. How often do we look at others as the problem? Or fail to consider our own condition? To live in depression, discouragement and disappointment because rather than giving the Lord all the broken pieces – we try to hold it all together. What are we holding together? Our brokenness. What does the Lord want to do? Give us a new heart. A responsive heart. A heart that beats in alignment with His Own. A heart burgeoning with life and new possibilities. One that is not stubborn or callous but one that arouses our spirit man with faith and confident hope.

As if that was not enough, the Lord began to drive His Point home. I began to see people I know and love who have sick hearts. Our son, my mom and even my adopted Memaw at church. All with heart conditions that need physical healing. I see the faces of those who have endured broken relationships. Giving all of their heart only to have the holder break it into a million falling pieces. The minister whose season was over grieving the loss of their sheep. The friends with lost children watching and waiting for their return. Those who desire more and are locked in less. So many hurting hearts physical, emotional and spiritual standing all around me. I am not alone. Are you heart sick today? Are you trying to hold all the pieces together in fear something might think you have no faith? Do dark shrouds of depression, despair, disappointment or discouragement hound you day and night? It doesn’t have to be that way anymore.

Psalm 13:1-2 (NLT) O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:11) How true is this scripture? While many feel like the psalmist in Psalm 13, most will never admit to the own struggles in faith. To believe is not natural. To have faith is illogical. Everything about God contradicts nature as we know it due to sin. Sin has flawed that created to be perfect. You are divinely created by the Living God. You are fearfully and marvelously made because God only prepares wonderful masterpieces. Yet in the course of life, even the most righteous believer will struggle to stay focused. The Lord is always thinking about us. Pursuing us with His Love. Offering His Goodness including every provision, blessing and promise that prosperity encompasses. It all belongs to us by the Grace of God given to us through His Son, Jesus. We only need to accept His Love into our heart and mind until we are convinced that this is the Truth concerning us. God has placed eternity in our heart and promises to make everything beautiful in His Time. But until then…

Psalm 13:5-6 (NLT) But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14) Faith is not imagined but intentional. To take my confidence out of this world and put it in the Kingdom is not fanciful but focused. I must make every effort to respond to all of God’s Promises by faith. Faith is in our heart. Brokenness gives faith a place to grow, develop and mature into confident hope. Hope that anchors our soul is heavily weighted in the Word of God planted as tiny seeds growing into mighty oaks of righteousness. A broken heart is painful. It doesn’t work properly and there are many things that will contribute to its demise including hidden sin, retained offenses, and bits of bitterness all allowed to take the place of faith. Doubt is the tiny pebble that becomes a mighty mountain in the life of a believer. If the enemy can sell us on just one lie, our feet become tangled and down we go. Those who choose the Lord as rock (immovable) and redeemer (the one who saves, heals and delivers) will see His Goodness in the land of the living just as He promises in Psalm 27.

Psalm 6:1-3 (NLT) O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage. Have compassion on me, Lord, for I am weak. Heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. I am sick at heart. How long, O Lord, until you restore me?

Can you relate to David’s plea to the Lord today? Are you beginning to think that God is punishing you for something? Or is this discipline that is unpleasant? Do you think that God doesn’t love you? Or maybe He has forgotten you? Knowing the right thing to do and doing it are two very different things. When our body, mind or spirit are plagued with negative thoughts it drags our heart down, too. Are you sick at heart today? Is your heart broken? Are you clinging to the pieces hoping to put your life together again? How long will the Lord wait until He restores you, me, or us?

Psalm 27:8 (NLT) My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”

The cardiologists ordering lunch were filled with vast knowledge. Years of education and experience and yet they still chose foods that might compromise their health and hearts. They made an informed decision to choose unhealthy options. We have been given the Word of God. As we deliberately, read it, study it and meditate on it – we have knowledge of God. Wisdom is gained by applying such knowledge to our life. I can know everything the Word says and do everything according to church doctrine and still live with a broken, lifeless heart. His Commandments bring joy to our heart. (Psalm 19:8) As we resolve the conflict between our flesh and faith something beautiful will emerge from the rock that once residing in our chest. New life comes when we allow the Lord to take our stony heart and give us a new heart. The only confidence I have in this life that is eternal is found in Jesus Christ. God will strengthen the heart given to Him in its complete brokenness. He creates masterpieces out of messes (Ephesians 2:10) and makes every detail of our life part of the magnificent existence found it its place. (Romans 8:28)

If you are heart sick today, I know a healer. A Great Physician who does heart transplants without a single incision just a cut called circumcision. As our stony heart is removed, a new heart emerges full of life. the hope that I have in Jesus Christ is not based on what I see but Who I know. When struggling with doubt, depression, despair, discouragement or desperation – our broken heart will hear His Voice. Why? His Word tells us that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18) It is up to me if I will respond to His Call. Come closer He says. Let me give you a new heart. Renew a right spirit. Our response – “Lord, I am coming!”

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.

New Heart

New Heaert

Ezekiel 36:25-27 (ESV) I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

The image a vivid reality in my mind. Praying to the Lord to take all of me is a common cry in the church today but do we really understand what we are saying. God begins a good work in us. Holy Inhabitation makes it possible as the Holy Spirit takes over those areas of our life invested in the Kingdom. The fashion of holy consecration is brokenness. It is an act of humility. Sacrifice that demands all of us to produce good fruit and abundant life in all areas. The Lord has promised to give us a new heart and new spirit. The Word of God says, “I will put within you.” When our religion becomes a true relationship with Jesus Christ – our heart cannot be withheld and flesh cannot survive the burning passion and desire to seek Him, know Him and be with Him.

The Heart of Stone

Back to the revelation in my prayer time, I saw a sharp pointed knife cutting through dull gray exterior resembling a rock. As it began to cut with excellent precision – I wondered if it could get through the concrete exterior. What would be inside? As it continued the downward trend, a beautiful beating heart emerged. It took my breath away as in that moment I drew in a cleansing breath. God is this what you want to do in me, my family, my church and my community. Are you trying to take our stony, hard hearts and give them new life? Absolutely.

It’s funny that humanity thinks it can evoke heavenly change in an earthly body. The embodiment of religion is to produce positive change on the exterior, but without the inward change of a circumcised heart – it won’t work. We can build churches but not become the Church. We can resemble broken and handicap bodies but not become the Body of Christ. The prosperity of our hands will not move the Heart of God. He must complete the good work that He has begun in us through His Son, Jesus. (Philippians 1:6) Have you given your heart to Jesus?

Deuteronomy 10:12-16 (ESV) “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good? Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day. Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.

Before moving ahead to obedience, our heart must truly repent before the Lord. Jesus must be the Way, the Truth and Life for us. In that moment, everything changes but unless one engages in the relationship with Christ – it is merely another social venue chosen in which to exist. The miracle of salvation is made complete in the covenant formed as a relationship with Jesus. Without a relationship, it is nothing more than religion. Religious people do not necessarily have eternal life. Without a heart change produced solely by the Lord and His Spirit, we may look different, sound good, and live better but eternal life comes from an intimate and ongoing relationship with the Father through His Son.

Grace is always enough. This is not a call to live a perfect life. Never make mistakes. Always make good choices. Stop sinning completely. Though these are our goals, the battle against our flesh is quite evident and the struggle is real. (Romans 7) What does God require of you? To fear the Lord your God. To walk in all His Ways. To love him. To serve Him with all your heart and soul. To keep His Commandments and Statutes.

Here’s a plot twist for you! Every bit of this is summed up in love. Romans 13 tells us that we are to own no one anything but love. The Message translation puts it like this – “Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.” To love Jesus with all of our heart and soul makes sin unpalatable if it separates us from His Love. When our union with Christ is complete, He becomes our priority over selfishness because He is better than life. You cannot engage in a relationship with Christ without a circumcised heart. It is the sign of covenant. In the Old Testament – an outward sign of a promise. In the New Testament – it is an inward sign of a new heart, mind, soul and body devoted to Jesus Christ.

New Heart

Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)  For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

This verse has been heavy on my heart. The Word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword to the division of soul and spirit…Is the Sword of the Spirit for me? Yes. To use on others. To wield against the enemy and every perceived threat. Yes. But first, before all of that, it is for me to allow God to circumcise me and give me a new heart and new soul to serve Him. What if we have been going about this all wrong? What if our first action as a believer is to allow God to use this two-edged sword on our own stony and stubborn hearts…first. Always first. When tempted to lash out can we let His Word cut away the lack of love in us. What if the sword is useless in our defense unless it produces change in us first? Jesus is the Word. He is the Way, Truth and Life. No one gets to the Father but through Him. If God’s Word does not work in me, I cannot become the new creation filled with new life that He promised. I must consecrate my life beginning with my heart and soul before I can make an impact in my home, church and community. Otherwise it is just good works not godly deeds.

Psalm 51:10-12 (ESV) Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

A stubborn hard heart cannot give the kind of love that it has received from the Lord. God is love. His Love for us comes without condition and immeasurable grace. A heart of stone cannot receive such love and it is like pouring water on a rock. Only a heart broken before the Lord can receive all that He has for us. I wonder today if I might be so bold as to say the heart of the church must be circumcised again. To cut away the callous disregard for “sinners” just like us. To see people where they are instead of expecting them to “act” like us. To see ourselves transparently through the eyes of grace and humbly expect our misfortune apart from Jesus Christ. We have all failed the Lord. We are all sinners just the same. There is none righteous no not one.

Lord, I ask you to take the two-edged sword of your Word and penetrate our stony, stubborn and selfish hearts today. This word is for no one other than me for I am the least of these. Father, renew a right spirit in me. Let Your Presence be my dwelling place as I crawl back to You with my heart in my hands asking you to give me a brand new one! In Jesus Name!

Ezekiel 11:18-20 (ESV) And when they come there, they will remove from it all its detestable things and all its abominations. And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

Something New

Something New

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 

One a couple more days and it will be a brand new year. Where does time go? Like sand running through an hour glass, it waits for no one. One day becomes a week, becomes a month and before you know it another year has passed. Looking back over the past year, it has been a good one. Our blessings far outweigh the struggles. The next year has many good things to look forward to – our first grandbaby will arrive. Our son will marry his love and our family grow some more. These are just the things that are known, there are so many more things that we do not know. Serving a God who chooses to do exceedingly abundantly more than I can think or ask, I am full of expectancy.

Today – considering the arrival of the New Year – I am evaluating what to take with me into 2018 and the things I am leaving behind in 2017. The passage of time is beyond our control but each one of us is given 24 hours a day to choose how to use it and the freedom to decide what goes into our future and what is left in the past. Like packing a suitcase for an upcoming trip with airline requirements and security clearances to consider, I must evaluate the baggage that I will carry from this year to the next. I want to become a new creation. I want the new that is coming. I can only have that which I make room for. When going on vacation, I always make sure that there is extra room in my luggage for souvenirs. Will there be room for the “new” that the Lord has for me? Or will I remain weighed down with this year’s junk?

Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV) “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

Prayerfully I must consider the things that make up my life. The contents of my heart, the substance of my soul and every thought circling in my head. Reconciliation to God is an ongoing effort. Careful inspection of every aspect of my life. I have been given a new covenant to live by called grace. It is important not to lose sight of the terms of this agreement with God. Grace is a gift that can only be accepted. I do so by acknowledging my weakness rather than hiding behind my pride. It is to say, “Lord, here I am.” I must give my all to fully accept the new covenant given to me and allow Christ to change me from the inside out. It is a conscious decision and everyday awareness of the potential of grace to complete my life and release God’s Blessing in it.

Are there some things that I must let go of? Yes. Are there some things that I will bring with me? Of course. The most important thing to remember in the upcoming year is that God is still working on me. The promise of becoming a new creation and given new life is based strictly on my acceptance of His Grace and to live in this new covenant. Nothing in our life is ever wasted. Psalm 139 tells us that our life is prerecorded. This would have to include every mistake, shortcoming and failure to effectively supply enough grace to be called sufficient. It really doesn’t matter how this year is ending – a new one is coming. God’s Promises and Potential for our life is secure in His Covenant.

Psalm 119:35-38 (ESV) Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways. Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.

I am truly looking forward to the coming year. With all the wonderful things that I know are coming, I cannot help but be excited. God is doing new things. I do not want my limited expectation keep me from discovering all that the Lord has for 2018. It happens when I stay focused on what I see rather than embracing the unseen by faith. It is important to take some time before the ball drops and the calendar page turns to sit with the Lord and let Him show me what to take into 2018 and what should remain in 2017. To evaluate progress in reconciling my life to Him and decide what needs to be eliminated to move in closer to Him. He will lead me. The Spirit in me can turn my head from worthless things but only the willing will follow His Guidance. Lord, create in me a new heart and renew a steadfast spirit for the coming year. Lord, remove the weight that keeps me from that which you have for me. Thank you for the new life you have given me and new creation that I am becoming. Will 2018 be the year that you let the Lord do something new in you, too?

Ezekiel 36:26 (ESV) And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

A New Thing

New-Thing

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLT) “But forget all that—it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

If only forgetting was easy, but it’s not. The past has a way of grabbing our attention and holding it tightly. It doesn’t even have to be a negative experience to captivate our gaze distracting us from the future. When life turns out better than expected, it keeps us locked in the present wary of change. To live in the limbo of faithful expectation and ongoing willingness to leave the comfort of the known to explore the unknown is contrary to human nature. The idea of foregoing inconvenience silences the call “send me” but rather “keep me right here” is the hidden hope of the wary heart. Pride holds tightly to the concept of control hushing the thought of humility allows God’s Power to work in our weakness by His Grace. Who wants to be weak? I do.

This morning – I heard a whisper in the darkness just before dawn. I want to do a new thing. At first, I thought it was my husband mumbling in his sleep but turning to face him peacefully sleeping I knew it wasn’t him. I heard it again. “I am doing a new thing.” Walking through the sleeping condo to find a quiet place, the sun is peaking through the clouds over a calm ocean. The same ocean that once upon it in a little pink ring toppled my girls and I with one rogue wave. Dare I go again? Dare I say, “Yes Lord, I am ready”? The last time I felt the urge to follow my faith – diving into the Word of God seeking out His Promises – it led me to a hospital, a bad report, a sick child, the very edge of my faith. It was my complete undoing. Dare I say, “Do it again, Lord.” Unravel me. Undo me. Break my heart before you. You see life is good. My life has exceeded my expectation in so many ways. Dare I tempt fate? Do I trust the Lord for more? Fulfillment is a longing deep in every heart. Faith is the issue at hand.

I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

This is the part that is challenging. The “pathway through the wilderness” marked with many temptations. “Rivers in the wasteland” which may mean a season of drought or barrenness. Faith is the requirement to achieve new things in the Lord. To fully embrace His Way and walk out His Word to the place marked full satisfaction, complete contentment and fulfillment of purpose. To have these things means letting go of the past, forgetting how God did all those great and mighty things so we won’t miss the “new” thing that He is doing. To embrace expectation in the Character and Nature of God not His Previous Doing or Outpouring. Expectation formed by experiences might make us miss what the Lord is doing now because of limited perspective. Our expectation must remain fully and confidently in the Love and Goodness of God full of Grace for His People.

Philippians 3:12-14 (NLT) I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

My life is not perfect. My faith far from it. My confidence strong but still weak at times. I have achieved things in Christ that were once impossible. Yet, He has called me to more, I must decide if I am willing to step out of this place and into the future of my faith. To let go of what He has done to receive the new things yet to come. The Lord leads us from glory to glory. Always qualified with an invitation as the He cannot and will not force the Gift of Grace, Goodness or Glory based on unconditional love and forgiveness on us or it wouldn’t be a gift or love at all. We choose to go to new places and have the new things whispered to our heart each day. We must forget the former things and embrace faith as the reality of our life.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NLT) When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. 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.

When I think of all that the Lord has done in my life, I fall on my knees in thankfulness. Today in thankfulness, I am also reminded that He offers “glorious, unlimited resources” to “empower” us and give us inner strength through His Spirit for more. Christ in me is always striving to make me “more than a conqueror” to walk in the victory. To claim every promise and blessing offered through right-standing with the Father for which He died to give me. His Offer still stands and cannot be achieved in a moment but takes a lifetime crossing over into forever to receive fully and completely. How can I say, “No”? God’s Purpose is that I will know the parameters of His Boundless Love and Blessing in my life. His Goal is that I will experience the fullness and completion offered by a life lived IN Christ. It is all too great for me to understand. Yet, nevertheless, my ignorance is given knowledge, understanding, discernment and wisdom through His Spirit to say, “Yes” when He says, “I want to do a new thing.” Lord, thank you for always offering me more when I would be willing to settle for less.”

Ephesians 3:20-21 (NLT) Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.

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!

Clean Up – A Devotion

Clean Up

Ephesians 5:25-27 (NLT)

For husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. He did this to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish. Instead, she will be holy and without fault.

 

The morning after the wedding, I opened my eyes to see that the world had not completely changed or become dramatically different in the third child leaving the nest. The sun was shining and the birds chirping in the crisp cool air. As I lay there contemplating the cleanup after the party, I seriously considered putting my Suburban up for sale advertising it as wedding-in-a-truck rather than tackling emptying the poor overloaded beast. With decorations, gifts and tuxedos crammed from the floorboard to the top, it was quite an overwhelming task but absolutely necessary if I was going to drive it again. The room and bathroom that our sweet daughter and her bridesmaid friends had vacated resembled a rock star’s path of destruction. I could lay there no longer as these tasks lifted me out of bed catapulting me into the day. Now for some very blessed individual’s such chaos does not bother them, sometimes I am envious. Disorder really gets under my skin. When things are out of place, I feel the immediate need to put them back and restore some kind of order. Godliness is next to cleanliness is not a specific Bible verse although many neat freaks would like to think so. But I do believe clean living is part of God’s Plan for righteousness in our life. It demonstrates holiness. So why am I so compelled to clean in the midst of chaos? I wish it was only when I encounter a mess. There is something in my being that tends to grab cleaning supplies when I come across the unexpected. When change swirls around me, I shuffle around trying to reestablish order in my life. Perhaps, the day after our sweet daughter married the one who God made for her was one of those days when I needed to reestablish order with one less bird in the nest. Or maybe it is the change that has been rising up in my heart for two or three months now. Who knows? All that I know is that it is time to clean up.

Jesus loves me. God is always good. Even in the unexpected things of life, His Unfailing Love and Kindness is pursing us although we are quite content with things the way that they are. In the chaotic times, could it be that the Lord is reorganizing our life to make room for the better things that He has for us. Jesus Christ gave His Life so that I could be holy and clean which prepares me to stand in righteousness and receive the Glorious Standard of Living prepared for me by God. This is nothing new. He planned it before I was ever created just for me. It is good with a future and hope. His Word cleanses me. It shows me the areas in my life that need to be washed under the blood and prepared for His Glory. He did this so that I could be presented before God “without spot or wrinkle or any other kind of blemish.” So that I could be “holy and without fault.” It is a wonderful plan but there is definitely some a cleanup process necessary in my life.

2 Corinthians 7:1 (NLT)

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

 

I want God’s Promises for my life. Not only is my future riding on this, but that of my children. Our son is dependent right now on God’s Hand of Healing to deliver him from cancer and all the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation that take a horrible toll on one’s body. This is the most evident in our life but there are many other promises planted in faith waiting to be harvested. Because I have promises, there will be periods of time when my life is turned upside down so that I will take the time to cleanse myself. These times show me the hidden things inside my heart that maybe do not line up with what the Lord is impressing on my spirit. Let us work together to complete holiness. Holiness is not some ridiculously impossible feat. It is not a buzz kill if you will. Holiness is simply this. Our life is like a big rumpled bed sheet spread across a mattress. Initially it is filled with ridges and wrinkles. Holiness is the process of God’s Hand’s gently spreading out the ridges, and smoothing out the wrinkles in our life until we are completely covering the Plan of God which is our reasonable service. The problem with holiness is that we do not know and understand His Plan. If we decided it was good, we would surrender to the process. Faith is the force that we hold on to in the middle of God leveling and straightening the edges of our life into alignment with His Purpose. Trust is an absolute requirement. Holiness is not a radical change to a religious lifestyle but rather full assumption of God’s Glorious Standard of Living for our life that produces His Promises and Blessings as we prosper.

Proverbs 14:4 (NLT)

Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.

 

It is important to evaluate the order of our life. In the midst of my frenzy to clean up around here, I must decide if I am trying to restore order or renew this place for our new life. I know that some people leave their children’s room just as they left them when they grow up and move away. I have a friend who has never given away a single toy her two grown children had, she saves everything. I am the opposite. As our children have grown up and moved away, I immediately transform the space for a new use. For example, our daughter’s recently vacated room is becoming my office. Yesterday, I cleaned it from top to bottom. Vacuuming every single inch of carpet and baseboard, removing all her unwanted things she left behind, cleaning off the bed and clearing the rest of the closet, I began to think maybe I had oxen, too. The painful reality that our children grow up and move away should not create a feeling of loss but complete success. God gave us these children to raise into confident, strong and competent adults. When they step out the front door into their new life, you have successfully completed your mission as a parent. This is the plan of God in full operation but it produces a change that we are uncomfortable with. Without these changes, problems and even circumstances in our life, we would not promote change but die in complacency. When we become uncomfortable, it is human nature to move, rearrange and reassess our life. We need these things in our life to harvest what the Lord has for us that is beyond our comfort zone and outside of our order.

Philippians 2:14-16 (NLT)

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.

 

I do not want to run the race of faith in vain and I do not want to hinder the salvation work that the Lord is doing in me. I must hold firmly to the Word of God for my life. It is tough sometimes in the storms of life and the winds of change to remember that it is the Lord blowing through our life making us holy without spot or blemish, ridge or wrinkle to be ready for every good work that He is doing in us and through us. I want to be holy. I want to be washed in the Water of His Word. I must do so without complaining or grumbling when my life is turned upside down and disordered. God is not the author of confusion and will gladly let me in on His Secret if I but only ask. My goal is to live a clean and innocent life to have all that God promised me. He does not reward good behavior but freely flows in the unhindered life of holy people. Why? God is holy. That is why we must be holy to have all that He gives!

2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NLT)

In a wealthy home some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.

 

My tendency to clean does not bring me closer to God. It is my desire to be holy that will. The cleaning is a compulsion that my mind uses to establish order and control when I feel that there is none. It benefits everyone in a natural sense. I must strive to take my whole life and keep it ready for God’s Use. Whatever that use may be according to His Will and not my own which means that there will be times of disorder and unexpected changes. Even if my hands begin to attempt to restore order by cleaning, if my heart remains compelled to live in agreement with God everyone will benefit from the blessing that is produced. We decide our level of service to God by our commitment to holiness. Holiness is nothing more than being dedicated to service to God. Do you want God’s Will for your life today? You must be holy. Do you want every blessing that He set forth for you to have? You must be holy. I want to be ready for the Master to use for every good work. This is how my life will prosper in His Blessings every day.

Hebrews 10:21-23 (NLT)

And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Before I went to bed last night, the old Suburban was completely empty with everything in its proper place. Our daughter’s old room now my soon-to-be office is cleaner than it has been in the last ten years. I now have a guest bathroom that is not overridden with nail polish, hairspray and discarded clothes. Hallelujah! All the tuxedos returned. There is an organized stack of unused wedding supplies that will soon be going up for sale along with pristine and freshly washed and folded tablecloths for the highest bidder. Even my wedding folder on the computer is all cleaned up! But something more important is happening on the inside as the peace of God permeates every doubt that tried to make me think this would be my undoing. Rather it is His reshaping and remolding me for our next great adventure! As I step into His Presence covered by His Blood, I realize that everything is going according to His Plan. So I hold tightly without wavering to the Hope that I have been given according to His Goodness and Grace knowing that He can be trusted to do what He said that He would do!

Titus 2:14 (NLT)

He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds.