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.

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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.