Monday, December 20, 2010

So This is Christmas

So this is Christmas.....and what have you done.....another year over...... and a new one just begun... lalala...... I have the John Lennon song Happy Christmas stuck in my head.

Another year over......and what have you done? What good question to be asking ourselves as the year closes out. Has your year brought you closer to God's purpose for your life? Has this year been a memorable one or just another year like many before it?

My year has been a difficult one. It has been a year of great change in my life. Although it has been difficult, it has not been without benefit. By allowing God to guide my life, great change has not gone unused by God. I have grown and my heart stirs even greater than before for a world that needs the truth I hold inside me.

As we move into the Christmas holiday, what better time to unleash our hearts and pour out God's goodness on those around us. There are so many people celebrating a holiday that is focused on Jesus, King of Kings, but have no personal understanding of why He came in the first place.

This Christmas, teach those around you why He came. Share the greatest gift you can give to someone. Walk through the initial fear to share and let the love you have received be known by those less fortunate. There is no greater gift you could give this season than the gift of God's salvation. Share the truth of Jesus this season. After all, He's the reason for the season.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Blinging to Eternity

Today while doing research for the bible study I am writing I stumbled across a fabulous truth. It's now one in the morning and I am tempted to wake up my husband just so I can share. I just wanna shake him awake and say "Guess what! Bling is good!!

You see I like shinny and glitzy things that bling. I just can't help myself. I love all things glittery. Jewels are great, shinny shoes are fun and a glittery bag is a must with certain outfits.

So when Christmas rolls around look out! Two things I love come together in a great way. I love Jesus and I love bling. On Christmas those two things collide and make an extravaganza of fun for me.

My husband on the other hand can be quite the kill joy when it comes to my decoration obsession. Just because he has to drag a few (thirty) plastic totes up from the basement and then return them after I'm done picking through them, doesn't constitute such ugliness. Okay, he's not necessarily ugly about it, he just complains. ALLOT. He says I have to many decorations and then throws a fit when I continue to purchase more each year. Whats the big deal if it keeps a girl happy? And this girl it does.

I don't get the problem. After all, Jesus deserves it. It's his birthday, I gotta do it up right. His birthday only comes once a year and there are so many pretty bobbles out there to celebrate with. Hobby Lobby calls my name this time a year. I hear it in my sleep.

So imagine my pleasure in finding treasure in scripture that supports my love for bling. I was studying I Peter 1:7. It says this:

That the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Here's the good part! Matthew Henry says this about it in his commentary. Jesus will appear in glory, the saints will appear with Him. Their graces will appear illustrious and the more they have been tried the more bright they will appear. Their glory, honor and praise will last to eternity.

WOOT! WOOT! According to Matthew Henry, each trial we go through adds grace that will appear brighter on us. When we appear in the sky with Jesus we will be glowing bright from all our added glory. That to me shouts of glowing brightness. I like it! I like it allot!

Sparkle I will!! So far, with all the trials I have been through, my bling quotient should be pretty high about now. I can hardly wait!

Gotta..... go..... wake..... up..... husband. I can't hardly stand it.....No.....No.....I should probably wait.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

We All Become Orphans At Some Point

Today I got some sad news. My brother in-law, whom I love so dearly lost his father two days ago. If it wasn't hard enough, he also lost his mother just a mere four weeks before this. Dealing with the death of a parent, all though inevitable for us all, is a very hard thing go through. How much harder to lose both parents one after the other.

I can not say I know what this feels like. I only know the grief and loss from a bystanders view point. I myself, several years ago,watched as my husband experienced the loss of his mother and soon after, his father. Although, I haven't been through the loss of my parents, I know that I will eventually have to face that grief.

Thinking today about my brother in-law (and in Christ), my mind wandered to how he must feel right now. How losing both parents must bring a person to the feeling of being orphaned. The feeling of being left on your own without the familiar safety net we have always counted on. You see, as long as we are still someone's child, we have someone to run to when we are scared or need counsel. As long as our parents are alive, the small child that lives within each of us has a Momma or a Daddy to run to when times are tough. We can still run and tuck our head in Momma lap or bury our head in Daddy's shoulder. We may not do this literally, but the availability to do so is always there. We get to live in the illusion that we are protected from a big, hard, ugly, cruel world. There is always that feeling of protection that hovers over us as long as they are with us here on earth.

What I realized as I watched my husband go through similar circumstances is that a shift must take place. First, we must allow ourselves to grieve. There is no shame in shedding tears for the loss of a loved one. They cared for us and loved us, they deserve our tears of grief.

Through the grieving process there must come a honesty before God. A place where you share how much you hurt with God so He can begin to mend the brokenness. When we take the time to bring our grief to Him, He will give us more than we could ever expect. He will be our comforter, our friend, our place of protection and our great healer of the heart. More than that, He knows our state of loss and our loneliness. He knows that we are now orphans in a big cruel world that just got bigger.

Here's the thing.... If we let Him, God will fill that hole our parents left behind. He will become the Father that is there hovering to protect us. He will become the Father always there to bury our head in when were scared. He will be to us all the things we believe we lost, if we ask.

So for my brother..... I say to you....I love you. It's okay to feel grief. Call on those of us around you when you need an ear,a hug or a friend. We are here. But more than that, your great Father in Heaven is only a thought away and He loves you.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Pressing Forward As My Knees are Knocking

Have you ever wondered why being a child of God requires so much change and growth? I have! As a matter of fact I am asking God that question right now! I keep thinking I will get to coast for a while, maybe sit back just long enough to put my feet up for a short spell. But......NOT!

Change just keeps on coming. Seems like it's becoming a more frequent visitor and stays longer each time. Lately I have begun to wonder if maybe it's decided to become my way of life. So be it. If that's the way it's gotta be, I guess I need to get used to it and stop fighting so hard against it. Guess I should just strap on the safety belt and hang on for the ride. Knowing of course that I'll be safe since Jesus is driving.

Here's the thing. When I prayed to be greatly used by God, I had no idea how much change it would require. I expected my external circumstances to change. I knew that I would face some adversity and have to overcome some obstacles. I knew that He would change me internally. What I did not anticipate was having to come face to face with myself. What I mean is my core fears and insecurities.

Six years ago when Jesus sat me down in the chair in my living room and began a very personal discipleship program with me, I began to be consumed with His word. I knew I needed to love Him with all my heart and so I asked for Him to give me wisdom and a heart like His. I then began to pray for Him to make me look like Himself when I looked in the mirror. A slow ember began to burn which grew into a spark. That spark of fire grew until all I wanted to do was be His and glorify Him in what ever way He deemed fit.

As my desire to understand the Word of God intensified, He reminded me of a vision He had shown me at the age of twenty. Wide awake, I had seen clearly a vision of myself. In that vision I was standing at a podium in a large auditorium filled with people. I was speaking for Him.

For the next three years as I spent my days engulfed in the Word of God, the message God continually spoke into my heart was "Speak for Me" "Speak for Me". Three more years and here I am, still changing and learning. Yes, I am more prepared to be that person. Yes, I do speak and teach His word to others. But as it is becoming more clear what is expected of me I am now coming face to face with my deepest beliefs about myself.

You see, I am comfortable teaching in a small group to those I know well. I am comfortable typing my words from the safety of my laptop as I sit here in my living room. I can even get through an occasional speaking engagement with the loving women in my church. But as I begin to embark on bigger things, my full blown insecurities are hitting me square between the eyes.

You see, I have been writing a bible study that I have embarked on trying to get published. This weekend, I am attending a conference where I will have the opportunity to present what I have written before some editors and publishers. I am terrified. You may think me silly to have such fears, but there are many things it is causing my poor heart to feel.

I struggle severely with insecurity. What were you thinking Lord!?! Me a speaker, a writer, a teacher? I know what He is calling me to do and if I take this step it will lead to more. More of what I am terrified of. More standing up in front of people as my legs are shaking. More of possible rejection and criticism. More, more, more..... of everything I feel inadequate to do.

So as I come face to face with one of my biggest core beliefs, that I am not enough, all my insecurities are at high alert. I'm shaking in my boots and my knees are knocking but I will not let it defeat me. I will do what I need do to get past it, I will DO IT anyway. I will press on forward; scared, legs shaking, knees knocking. I will continue walking forward into where He is calling me, scared or not. My hand may be squeezing His so tight that I cuts off all His circulation, but forward I will go. I doubt He will mind my squeezing.

This weekend, and I am sure many more times in the future, I will face my fear and hear these words "Do It Scared". "Do it with fear in your heart if you have to, but don't stop, just do it"

So I will.... go..... do it..... trembling......holding on tight. But I will go.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Gaining Myself As I Lose Myself

Luke 10:19 - "Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you."

Words spoken by Jesus over 2000 years ago to seventy followers. They were appointed and sent out two by two into every city where He Himself would be going.

They were to be laborers for His harvest. He knew they would see hardship. He knew they would come in direct contact with evil. But He sent them out anyway.

He warned them of what they would encounter. "Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves." Then He instructed them to let peace rest on the house that had peace as they entered and to take their peace with them if not. "Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such thing that are put before you. And heal the sick there, and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near you."

As these seventy returned.... they returned with joy. Why?

They had seen hardship. Evil had tried to stop their progress. Life as a disciple had not been easy. So why would they return with great joy in their hearts? Why weren't they beat down and discouraged? Why were they instead full of enthusiasm?

I believe they had seen for themselves the truth in Luke 10:19. NOTHING could hurt them. When they were approaching all circumstances and individuals, they were doing it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There strength and power was in the name they had been branded with.

Beloved, there is power and authority in the name of Jesus Christ. Abiding in Jesus we can not be hurt. If we do not allow the actions or decisions of others to say who we are, we can not be hurt by them.

I have learned recently that when you place your identity in the one who created you and you see yourself through His eyes, there is no act, insult or action by another person that can hurt you.

But you must know who He is, to know who you are. Do you get what I am saying? You can not define Yourself by the things of this world. Instead, you must define yourself by what God says about you. If you are to be the direct reflection of Jesus, you need to see yourself by looking at Him.

When you have a clear identity of who you are in Christ and your approval comes from Him, you need no one to say that you are OK. If you need no ones approval but His then no one can hurt you. The schemes of the devil are defeated. Anything that is done to you is in vain because you hold no regard for there approval or condemnation.

As you shed the need for the world to fulfill you and give you worth, you leave behind your self. You leave behind your old self, the one that felt unworthy and unacceptable.

As you do this shedding of self, a new self is emerges. It's a blossoming Spirit that is moved and directed by the Holy Spirit. I believe its what you were intended to be before life got in the way. His child, allowing Him to lead while you simply follow.

That's where the joy those seventy were talking about comes from. It comes from the name of Jesus. Abiding in the Holy Spirit, following His ways and being who He directs you to be.

When we do this nothing can ever really hurt us and we gain who we were intended to be from the beginning.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Change Is Part Of Life

Some people say things like "I don't like change" or "If its not broke don't fix it." I understand their thinking, change can be difficult and at times very painful. Despite it being difficult, I am learning to say "Bring on the change Lord." And as I do, I begin to wonder what the Lord has planned next for me.

You see life is ever moving and ever changing. I would even go as far as to say that, to live as Christ is to be in the state of constant change.

Being a believer of Jesus Christ is all about change. We are to be renewed daily. Transforming into the image of Christ takes the daily renewed effort to change. Everyday we should ask the question "What will you change in me today Lord?"

We have to be prepared for things to change, because without change, there would be no forward movement. As the old saying goes, when your not moving forward, you are falling back. If we are not changing, moving forward to the next place God has for us, we instead are falling back. Usually, that falling back takes the form of old ways or new sin.

Although change is unavoidable, it is not always pain free. Sometimes we are faced with decisions that we know we must make to move forward in our walk with Christ. At the same time we know the change will cause us to grieve the loss of what has been. Sometimes we must sacrifice of our comfort and our personal feelings in order to be obedient to the will of God.

This has been the case recently for Dave and I. My heart has been heavy with the thought of leaving behind many that we love so dearly. You see, we recently made the decision to leave our home church. It has not come without many gut wrenching discussions and prayerful nights. At the conclusion, the answer has always been the same, "It's time to go."

We have not made this decision in haste. It has been a long process with many discussions spanning a two year period. Through our times talking over the last two years, we have come to the understanding that I have a calling on my life for ministry. It is a calling to write bible studies and teach the word of God. Eventually, God willing, I hope to be a speaker and help reach and teach many with God's word.

Our leaving is not a bad reflection on the church. Actually, it is instead a testimony to it. We have been feed and grown at this church to the point that now it is time to go forth and proclaim the word of God to others. We are grateful to have had the time with so many people that truly love God.

As I read a book by Beth Moore recently, what she said spoke to me. I'm paraphrasing, but here is what her words said to me. Anytime we move away from those we love there is a loss that occurs. In that loss there is a sort of death that takes place. When we experience a death, we grieve the loss. There is no way around it.

The disciples experienced the same loss when Jesus was taken from the cross and laid in the tomb. Then again when they arrived at the tomb and saw that His body was gone. They could have stayed in the tomb believing that all was lost or instead they could go and see the risen Lord.

Here is the hope for each of us. Jesus didn't stay in the tomb. Instead, he was resurrected. The disciples didn't stay forever in the empty tomb. No, they went to the meeting place and gather together where they experienced the resurrected Christ.

So when we experience a death of any type we have a choice. We can stay in the tomb looking for the body or we can go down the road to find the resurrected Christ. There is a resurrection waiting for each of us. It is the next place that God is waiting to take us too.

Dave and I are going down the road again. Although I grieve for what we leave behind, at the same time I am looking forward to the resurrection that awaits us.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Transforming Into The Character of Jesus

This morning as I was preparing for my bible study on how to have transformed speech, I stumbled on, or maybe I should say, I was showed by God some truth I'd like to share.

So often we say we want to be like Jesus. We want to be formed into his likeness as the bible tells us we are to strive for. Well. I know that I say this often. Maybe I am not alone on this quest and you want this also. But how do we get there?

I have high and lofty ideas of doing great things in the Kingdom of God. I'll save a hundred souls for Jesus. Maybe I'll feed thousands of starving children or create a huge mission that shelters a whole community. OR I'll write a best seller that comforts millions and a bible study that teaches the multitude about the ways of Christ. I will...... I will.....

In reality, I will DO nothing. It is he that is in me that will do the good works. The good works he planned for me to do even before I was born.

I believe the mistake I make, along with many others, is believing that "doing" is the answer to becoming closer to the image of Jesus. I so often think that I can show everyone who Jesus is by the big things I could do if He would only let me.

Doing is not the answer. Instead, the answer is in "being" like him. Everyday. In every encounter with another person. In all circumstances. Transforming our reactions, behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs to respond the way Christ would in all circumstances. Our character is to be in the process of being molded to reflect Jesus' character.

John 1:14 says - The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus, like the Father has two very important attributes that we would go a long way if we paid high attention to acquiring them. Those two attributes are grace and truth.

John tells us that Jesus, the One and Only, was (and still is) full of grace and truth. It is foundational to who Jesus is. As well, it should be foundational to who we are. If we are to be a true image bearer of Jesus Christ it is critical that our foundation reflect the characteristics of the original.

Being full of grace and truth........ How do we put these attributes at the foundation of who we are?

You can't be "filled" with the truth if you aren't "in" the truth. In other words, we have to fill ourselves with the "truth" of God which is in His word. It needs to be filling us up, changing our behaviors, making us into different creatures. Renewing us daily, changing our thoughts from evil to good. Making our thoughts and behaviors reflect Him. That is what comes from saturating ourselves in the word of God.

We can not reflect what we do not know. If we are not reading, studying and learning the word of God it can not be in us and fill us with truth. Therefore, truth will not be our foundation and we will not live it out in our daily lives. Instead, our human nature will seep out of us and inspire us to sin.

Truth. It's foundational. It teaches us to care with honest and transparent hearts. It shows others who we are. It shows our flawed true self that can not redeem or save itself. The truth that without Jesus, we are sinful at the core.

Sinful and self serving. That is "our" truth, self serving and flawed. But.... given a new life and truth by Jesus who lives within us. And if we want that to shine through, we must make His truth become a foundational part of who we are.

And then..... we live in His grace. Also as a foundation to who we are.

Grace, unmerited love and favor on the part of God. We didn't deserve it. We can't earn it. It is given freely because of His goodness. It is all about how good He is even when we don't deserve it.

Living in grace is a different calling then being saved by grace. We are saved by grace ONCE. Jesus died one time for all. You and I, we accepted his grace once and were given the free gift of salvation.

Living in grace is much different. It's daily, hourly, sometimes even minute by minute. "God of all grace" is one of God's names (1 Peter 5:10). He is the source and giver of all grace. His grace paid our debt and gave us salvation. It lavishes blessing on us and promises unimaginable favor. Favor that we have the privilege of living in and extending to others.

We can not extend our own grace, we instead must extend the grace we have been given by God. The favor God has shown towards us enables us to show the same to others. Instead of keeping track when others fail and hurt us. Or paying them back with the same, we can extend unmerited favor just as God does.

Each time we encounter a trial of an interpersonal nature we have the opportunity to either react as Jesus would or as Satan would. We can either repay evil with good or evil with evil. It is our choice in that moment. Will we walk the path of grace or the path of retribution?

Jesus was "full of grace", allowing a sinner like me to come into His completely holy kingdom. If I want to be transformed into the character of Jesus I have to look on others with the eyes that look back at myself. I have to see my own sin and failure when others fail and hurt me. I have to see their sin, knowing that I too do such things. I too speak things I should not and hurt others. I too say and do things that inflict pain or cause others to be injured. I am no better, I am only a sinner. A sinner under the grace given by God. A grace given to me so I can turn and pass it on to another.

Truth and grace.... a foundation made up of love and humility. It is the foundation I want. The foundation I believe we all need to live our lives out of.

Friday, August 20, 2010

All Things Are In His Hands - Part 4

So here I am..... Back in the house I was in four years ago...... And I thought I should finish the story I started months ago.

Of course, life is always a process and the story never really ends for each of us.... But this chapter on financial crisis has finally come to a close. PRAISE GOD

Last time I wrote, we had sold the big beautiful dream house and moved back to the smaller place but there was still no permanent job yet. Dave, my husband, was still scrounging out a living and we were living on a wing and a prayer. Faith was the name of the game..... And the way we were surviving.

In the beginning of July an email came from a member of the church we belong to. Our Pastor had left a year before for the mission field and moved to Greece. In the email he was requesting a group to come to Greece and help them build a church.

As I read the email, my heart sunk. This mission trip was something that Dave should be involved in but there was just no way it could happen. Here we were, barely hanging on financially, just moved back to our old house, behind on credit cards, still no permanent work, no insurance but surviving. How could he go to Greece? It just wasn't possible.

Or was it possible?

Turns out, nothing is impossible with God.

I read that email on Sunday morning right before we walked out the door to go to church. I mentioned it to Dave in the car and we both knew it was wasn't an idea we could entertain. At 9PM that evening, there was a knock at our front door. In enters a couple from church that are friends of ours with something they wanted to discuss.

"If we raise the money for you to go to Greece, would you go?" was the question they asked Dave. They continued.... "We were at our Life Group tonight and everyone there (ten people) thinks you are suppose to go on this trip. We want to make sure you have what you need to go."

How do you respond to something like this? First you pick your mouth up off the floor. Then you take a week to digest the whole thing and pray about it. Which is what we did.

I knew he should go, but was it Gods will? Was God really wanting him to do this? No job.... No money.... No security..... Pick up and go to Greece. Hey, why not?

To say Dave was hesitant is an under statement. He was reluctant to even entertain the idea. But God had a plan and it was in motion.

The next week after church service was over, up walks a man who is in our Sunday School class. He knew nothing about the previous conversation with other members of our church. He needs to talk to Dave. "Are you going on the Greece trip?" He asks. "If you are, I feel like God wants me to sponsor you" He proceeds to tell Dave that he felt like God was telling him and his wife felt the very same thing at the exact same time. They had gone looking for each other at the same time to tell one another.

The following week, this man walks up to Dave again after church and tells him that he had gone to the church that week to pay the money and found out that someone else, completely separate had already paid the plane fare. Evidently, a third party was now on the scene and had paid the fare in secret. They had been called by God and left the glory in His name. We still don't have a a clue who it was. The following week an envelope of money was left at the church with our name on it to cover expenses at home while he was gone.

To Greece he would go.... "But Dave, before you go, let me settle a few more things for you" said God.

Three weeks before the trip a phone call. It's an interview. To say Dave didn't have his hopes up would be putting it mildly. There wasn't even a hope on his radar screen. He had so little hope that he hadn't even mentioned he had an interview to me. Surprisingly, the interview went so well that a glimmer of light started to shine. Call me next week, the man said.

Tuesday the following week, Dave calls the man. "Nothing yet" he say. "I don't know if we are getting the contract yet."

Unfortunately, the job Dave had applied for was contingent on the company securing a contract to build a large project. Down Dave's hopes went again. The glimmer of light was gone. He had tried, struggled, looked, applied, striven and now pretty much given up hope that a job would come.

You know that saying "it's not gonna just fall into your lap?" Well, sometimes it does. Sometimes when we finally quit trying to do it ourselves and begin to put it in God's hands, he places what you desire in your lap.

Wednesday.... The very next day after this man said "Nothing yet", the phone rang. "Dave, I need some help, can you come to work?" It was a friend of his from church, that he served beside on the building committee. This man works for a construction company doing the same job Dave has done. He has been wanting to get Dave on at his company for some time but the availability hasn't been there. But now, he is overwhelmed with work and needs help. "Can you come in tomorrow?" he asks. "I can't be there tomorrow but I can on Friday" Dave tells him.

Thinking its just a temporary thing, contract work to pull the guy out of a crack, Dave shows up bright and early on Friday. As the day wore on and he was filling out W4 forms and insurance paperwork, he wondering.... "Is this a permanent position?"

Turns out, it was! No interview.... No talking to anyone..... Just a job, doing what he has always done, paying a good pay. With insurance starting the following week. Knowing full well that he would be gone for 10 days in just a few weeks to go to Greece.

Sometimes, it is just given to you. Sometimes, it does just fall into your lap. Because God does hear. And He takes care of His people. Only, it's in His timing, not ours. And we are required to just keep on going, trusting in His provision until He brings about the right thing at the right time.

So Dave's back from Greece now... School has started.... Routine has set back in....

Dave goes to work each morning. Brett goes to school. As for me? It's back to writing and waiting.... for the next part of His story in our lives.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Changed By Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-2 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He transfigured before them, His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as light.

Take just a moment and reread the above scripture one more time. Read through it slowly and think about what this encounter must have been like for these three men.

Jesus takes James, along with his good friend Peter and his brother John, up the mountain. Were the three men questioning where they were going and why they needed to go up so high on a mountain? Did they have any idea what was about to happen?

Imagine! Six days after you’ve spent time with Jesus where he's telling you all about his upcoming death and resurrection. Then, you were instructed to take up your cross and follow Him. Now, only days later, you are climbing to the high place on a mountain. Why?

All that Jesus had been telling his disciples was confusing at best. I wonder what thoughts were playing in their minds as they climbed higher and higher “Jesus is going to be killed and raised from the dead? Take up my cross? What cross?” What did all this mean?

Privately, Jesus takes three of His disciples up the mountain to seek God. He does not stay below and reveal His glory to everyone. Instead He takes only these three on his special quest.

Why would these three be the only ones to see all His glory?

Now standing high on the mountain, Jesus does the miraculous, He transfigures right in front of them. Scripture says His face shone like the sun and His clothes became as white as light. The substance of His body remained the same. He didn’t turn into a Spirit. His light came from within Him rather upon Him like a spotlight.

Transfigured in Greek is metamorphoo meaning to transform, to metamorphose, change into another form.

The change in Jesus that the disciples witnessed was a complete transformation of His body from human to Devine. Jesus chose three of His closest disciples, a competent number to testify for Him, to see Him in His glory. He gave them a hope to pass on that we can grab hold of today. A hope for all humanity to have a small glimpse of the kingdom that is to come.

I John 1:5 - This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.

I Timothy 6:16 - who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power.

Psalm 104:2 - Who cover Yourself with light as with a garment, who stretch out the heavens like a curtain.

Jesus appeared in lighted because He IS the light. He IS the light that shines in this dark world. We can take heart and have hope because of this. This world will not be shrouded in darkness forever. Satan will not run loose forever. Eventually, the light of Christ will put the darkness where it belongs and it will be no more. That hope is something we can count on.

The light seen by the disciples was a metamorphosis, a change in Jesus from human to Devine.

Biologically, metamorphosis is a process of complete change after birth. The whole form changes and morphs into a different being. Shape, structure and substance changes in the creature that has a metamorphosis.

There are few creatures that we can even look at to grasp an understanding of what it means to metamorphose. I am sure the process is very different for a deity like Jesus but all we have to gain our understanding is animals or insects here on earth. Let’s look at a few examples to gain at least a small understanding of what James, John and Peter must have witnessed.

The most commonly talked about transformation is of the caterpillar that turns into a butterfly. The caterpillar, which starts as a long fuzzy little creature, builds a cocoon and emerges eventually as a butterfly. It starts as a wormlike insect that squiggles around on sixteen legs and morphs into a colorful winged insect that flies gracefully through the air.

Then there is also the metamorphosis that takes place in a tadpole when it becomes a frog. When a tadpole first comes into being it swims in freshwater. It has a trunk shaped mouth, long slim body, tail, gills and a gill sac, just like any ordinary fish. It lives on a vegetarian diet.

Within the process of a day, the trunk shaped mouth with horny tooth ridges is reabsorbed together with the spiral gut. Then the animal develops a big jaw, the gills and the gill sac disappear. The eyes grow at a very rapid pace, as well as the legs. A tongue is formed. A few days later the tail reabsorbs into the body and is gone. The entire transformation takes only a few days.

Unlike the frog, the transfiguration of Jesus happened in an instant right before the eyes of the disciples. Imagine it! To see the glory of God!

Very few human beings can say they have seen the glory of God with their own eyes. Moses was another that had that privilege.

Exodus 33: 18-23 - And he said, "Please show me Your glory." Then He said, "I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." But He said, "You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live." and the Lord said, "Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen."

Moses had been on the mountain a long time enjoying intimate communion with God. Yet he still desired more. He desired to know and see more of God. He wanted more closeness and understanding of God. The more Moses had from God and the more He knew God, the more he wanted and asked for from God.

Just as Moses did, we are the same. The more we know God, the more and more we desire of His presence and His fellowship. The more time we spend in His presence, the more it fills our hearts. I wonder, does it fill His heart the same way? Does His heart about burst from the fullness of it?

Probably not, but I do believe it pleases Him greatly to be intimately sought in fellowship by us. I do believe, the more we spend in His presence the more love He lavishes on us in a way that we could only get from Him.

I believe as we become more intimately acquainted with Him, he reveals more of Himself to us. It’s a rare gift to actually see with our eyes the glory of God. A gift that many of us will only see on the other side of this life. Like those that have left this earth before us, we will also one day get the pleasure of seeing God’s face.

There are only a select few that have gotten the pleasure of seeing the glory of God displayed here on earth. James, John and Peter were three of those few that received that privilege.

What does the experience they had do to a person? How would it affect your life? I would imagine it would for forever change you.

I can not even begin to describe the impact I think it would make on me. I hope I would be forever changed. Changed to point that nothing could shake my faith in Jesus Christ.

For those of us that can only dream about an encounter like James had, we live in hope. Hope that one day soon, we too will see Him in His full glory. And as scripture tells us, we will not only see Him, but we will also be like Him.

I John 3:2 - Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Looking forward to eternity and holding onto the hope of it is great, but its not everything we have. We have today.... We have the intimate relationship of today that we are urged to pursue now. Everyday we can draw closer to the God of the universe, the light of the world. When we draw closer to Him, He in turn draws closer to us. He pulls us in and reveals to us His wisdom and His glory.

It is a mighty thing to see His glory at work in you and around you. Do you see it? Are you looking for it? If not, there is always today. And its a great day to start.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

All Things Are In His Hands - Part 3

As I was saying in the last post, God showed up. When there was nothing left for us to do but pray and ask for help, that is what we did.

We were broken but accepting of our fate. We would soon be looking for a place to live and what that would look like was elusive.

God had a different plan.... within a weeks time the three house payment were caught up on our old house to keep it from foreclosure and the child support we were behind on was paid in full. Unbeknownst to us, our brothers and sisters in Christ had caught wind of our situation.

We hadn't really shared openly with anyone about what we were facing. I had shared some of the story with my Tuesday morning women's group and had been asking for prayer. Many at our church knew Dave had struggled with finding a job but no one really knew the severity of our financial situation. Until that Sunday morning.....

As we left church that morning, a friend from my Tuesday morning group stopped me. "Next week right?" she asked me. It must have been my perplexed look that gave away I didn't get what she was asking about. "The closing on the house, it's next week, right?" I shook my head as tears welled up in my eyes. No words would come out, they were stuck in my throat. I knew if I tried to speak, my only sound would be guttural sobs. So I quickly left the building and headed to the car.

Discouraged and feeling like no one really cared, Dave and I left church. Looking at each other we decided if we were going to lose everything, who cared if we were frugal or not. So we decided to go out and eat. That would at least console us. Who cared at this point....

Sitting in the restaurant, in walks two couples from church. One couple included my friend that had questioned me that morning. "Next week right?"...... There she was, walking in the restaurant, Gods tool for the day.

Next thing you know, both couples are at our table asking to talk and pray with us. We shared honestly where we were at and what we were facing. It was a gut wrenching admission of honesty. They prayed with us and God showed us through them that He cared.

Good news travels fast but bad news.... travels even faster. Before you know it people.... God's people began to rally around us. The following week we went from ruin to caught up. Not just a small little amount came our way through a number of ways but a big amount. We needed a God sized miracle, a ten thousand dollar miracle. By the weeks end that miracle was complete.

What I had thought was TO BIG to overcome, God changed in a week. Proving to me that NOTHING is to big for God.

The following month, the people renting our old house agreed to move out by the first of April. We would move back and if needed we would give the house in Pleasant Hill back to the bank. It had been on the market for over a year with no buyers in sight. We had negotiated a lower payment on that house for the months of January, February and March. Coming up, April 15 we would owe all the rest.

It looked like we had saved the old house, we could move into it in April but the house in Pleasant Hill would go back to the bank. But God wasn't through....

Miraculously, after months had turned into years, right when we needed it, an offer on the house came.

Today, I as I write I sit in my little house in Lees Summit. The dream house is gone, sold to a young couple starting their family. Come to find out, the dream house wasn't really all I dreamed it would be. It was beautiful, don't get me wrong. But the peace I feel now and the love God has shown through all this was well worth it all. I lost nothing of real value. Instead I gained a transformation of the heart and a renewed faith. I'd do it all again to see God show up like He has. On second thought..... I'll just stay here until God moves me somewhere else. I've found that where ever He wants me is always the best place to be.

As of now, there is still no permanent work for Dave. We are living on faith and a prayer. But I'm beginning to wonder if that's just what God intended for us all along. Maybe we are to learn how to live each day in faith by prayer. Maybe it's just that simple..... maybe we just make it harder than it has to be.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

All Things Are In His Hands - Part 2

So back to the story....

As I told you in the previous post, since September 2009 my husband, Dave has been without full time employment. He has skills that make him able to get work at odd jobs working with other contractors and doing remodeling work. This has been the only method of income we have been able to get since last year. September and October were slim but Dave was able to work with a brother in Christ who owns his own remodeling company. When November rolled around there was not enough work to keep Dave and himself afloat so Dave was looking for other avenues to bring in money.

During November, December and January the well completely dried up. Every job prospect fell through, every job turned out to be a no go and we were without any income coming in. We were barely surviving. It seemed like every opportunity that came along God would slam shut. The stress Dave was under was tremendous and all areas of our life were in turmoil.

As a side note, I must tell you that we owned two houses during this time. Three and a half years ago we purchased our dream house in Pleasant Hill, MO. but we still owned our old house in Lees Summit, MO. Originally, when we moved, we obtained a buyer for our old house. The couple had some credit issues which friends of ours were equipped to help them repair. We signed a contract to sell within 90 days and for rent to be paid until then.

Fast forward about three years.... the house still not closed, the buyers still just paying us rent. But good news, looks like they are going to be able to close the end of February. Or so we thought.

Back to the story. By the time January hit we were in serious financial trouble. We had depleted everything we had saved long before. Three months of no income had put us at the brink of ruin. The rent paid to us for the old house was about the only money we had coming in so instead of using it to make the house payment, it was used just to keep the lights on and food on the table.

Now our only hope was the closing of the old house in Lees Summit that would happen at the end of February. We were banking on it. It would catch us up on the three months we were now behind on our house in Pleasant Hill, and pay off all the debtors that were hounding us for blood at this point.

We were not the only ones banking on the closing of this house, all our creditors were aware and waiting for the payoff. JUST A FEW MORE WEEKS AND AHHHHH.......

Third week in February and one week to go. The phone rings..... The buyers mortgage company has decided not to finance them. They found something on their credit report and have decided to pull their financing. The closing is not going to happen.

All hope is gone. Both houses we own will be gone. Without the house closing, foreclosure is imminent. There in no hope, its over. Everything we have worked for all our lives is about to be gone.

But is it all really over when God is your Father? Or do we, in that moment just think it is? Sometimes, when you have nothing left, when you finally get to the end of yourself and what you can do on your give up and let God. Which is exactly what happened to my husband.

As the provider and leader of our home, he finally had nothing left that he could do but beg God for intervention. It was at that place where there was no hope unless God showed up. Why we must get to the end of ourselves before we completely step out in faith I do not know. But often that is the case.

Where my husbands reaction was to step out in faith, mine was to get angry with God. I had stood through all the currents in faith. I had walked day after day in faith. Continually, I spoke the words "Have faith, no matter what, we will be okay, we are His children".

But the day I found out that the buyers could not close on the old house, Satan threw me a curve ball that hit me square between the eyes. He knew what my fears were. He knew my past and the things I had been through. So he threw out the thought of "where will you go, you are going to be homeless. With no employment you can't even rent."

All I could think of was how close to being homeless I had been so many years ago. And I began to rant at God, "How could you let it go this far? Homeless Lord? I have to be homeless? Where will we go? We can't even rent when they take our house away from us. " I was angry and doubting. How could God really love me and let such a thing happen?

The following Sunday morning Dave and I both battled our internal dialog that said "whats the use, stay home today'. Neither of us felt like going to church, we were broken and putting on a "I'm OK" face was not going to be easy. Something pushed us forward. Maybe it was the Spirit inside us or maybe it was just routine that caused us to go that morning. Dressed in our Sunday best, we picked up our bibles and our discouraged hearts, arriving in time for service.

As we sang worship songs, my hardened and angry heart said "I will not sing to you! I will not worship you!" I was hurt. I didn't understand why. After all these months of faith, I couldn't muster anything even close to a mustard seed worth of belief. I was all out of faith and refused to sing to a God that would render me homeless.

As the Pastor opened in prayer, I placed my bible on my lap opening it to the book he would be preaching on. I Peter, first chapter. Now, I have a Charles Stanley Life Principles Study Bible. Sporadically throughout it sprinkles extra information that Mr. Stanley has provided. This day as I looked on the left page there was a column called "Answers to Life's Questions". And what was the question?

"How do I handle a difficult trial not of my own doing?" As I began to read, the tears began to flow down my face. God knows when we face horrendous situations. He hears our cries. Even those who maintain the closest fellowship with Him are not immune to feelings of hopelessness.

It went on to say... Many times God allows us to face hopeless circumstances in order to test and try our faith; it is the hopelessness that forces us to seek God, and it is there that we find strength and refreshment. Does God care that your trials make you weary? Yes, and He knows every emotion, need, and desire you have. He also knows exactly what it will take to bring you into a more intimate relationship with Him.

God had spoken. He knew where I was at. He knew I was weary, I was broken and I was scared. He knew the hopelessness I felt.

It didn't end there. As the Pastor began his sermon about "Praising God in all Circumstances" God spoke through him directly to me. These words came from his mouth and convicted my heart.... "Even if God did nothing else for you in your entire life, salvation was enough to continually praise him for"

Salvation was so big, it trumped anything I could ever expect God to do for me. How dare I. How dare I respond the way I was. I had told God in the beginning of this journey if I lost everything I would continue to praise Him. That had been my answer to His question "What if it all goes away, what will you do?" I had answered that I would praise Him because it wasn't what He did for me that deserved my praise. He deserved my praise because He is God and I love Him.

Instead here I was raging at Him in anger, refusing to sing praises to Him. As my heart broke, repentance began. Restoration was immediate and faith came with it.

That next week God showed His mercy and love for us. As He began to glorify Himself, I watched with tears of love.

Monday, May 10, 2010

All Things are in His Hands - Part 1

On February 28th I wrote a post called "Honest Before God". In that post I spoke very honestly about how I was feeling about the circumstances that my husband and I have experienced in the last year.

I did not completely reveal the story behind what I was feeling. I was raw inside at the time I was writing. Full of some very real pain from a year of hard circumstances. I spilled out some emotional words from the depths of the humility God had taken me too.

From that post an interview was sparked that aired on the radio station, 91.3 FM in the Dallas Fort Worth area. The post "Honest Before God" caught the interest of Jim Norman at "Wise People", who interviewed me for his program. (You can download an MP3 of the interview on the left side of my blog)

At the time I did the interview, the story wasn't complete. Today, we are further into the story but yet the story goes on.

I would like to share it with you here. I can't share it all, as I just said, the journey hasn't ended yet. But I will share what we have come to learn so far.

It all started early last year when my husband walked through the door coming home from work one day. It was an ordinary day, nothing strange had happened to spark my feelings of unease.

I caught just a glimpse of him as he passed through the hallway heading towards the bedroom to change his clothes. Sitting in the living room, typing on my computer as I am right now, the thought crossed my mind, "he lost his job".

What was I thinking! I had no reason to think such a thing. The Spirit within had warned me. He had lost his job.

He had not just lost a job; he had lost the best job he had ever worked. A thousand acres of manicured lawn behind our house (a golf course) and a swimming pool in the back yard. We were comfortable, finally living the good life. Or were we?????

It was that day that God began a work in me that is still continuing today. My initial reaction to the news was like most would probably have. I knew in my head that God is in control of everything. I knew I should just have faith and trust the God was good and that He works all things together for the good of those who love Him. I loved Him; therefore He would take care of me. I knew all these things.

The problem came in putting those things to work and truly believing them. Although, I knew how I should respond, my heart was not at peace. My heart responded with fear while my head said I should just trust in the Lord.

The following day I spent a lot of time in prayer. While on the treadmill in my basement, I was asking God to help me. "Help my heart be a peace" I asked of the Lord. What I feared was what everyone fears in that situation. "We are going to lose everything, the nice house, the comfortable life we had built". All the worst possible outcomes ran through my head. Then I heard the Lord say to me "What if it all goes away? What if you do lose everything? Then what will you do?"

My response took sometime to ponder on those questions. How would I respond if everything was taken from me? Would I respond in anger and become bitter or would I trust that my God was good even when I did not understand?

My response was this "Then Lord, I will praise you. Because I do not praise and love you for what you can give me but for who you are." In that moment a peace washed over me like I had never felt. I would be ok; I was my Father's daughter and what ever happened that would not change. I might lose everything materially but I would never lose my hope and my God.

A month turned into two and the Lord provided all the way. Next thing you know, a job came. Not the job my husband wanted and with much less income but a job none the less. From the moment he arrived at this company, it was a complete mess. My husband, Dave, began to ask the Lord to get him out of there. "What in the world are you doing Lord? This place is getting ready to go out of business" Two month later Dave is back pounding the pavement looking for a job. While Dave was at that company, several very needy people heard the truth of the gospel. Lesson learned.... sometimes the assignment from God is short.

Back to the job search. One month later.... another job. Again not the money he was making but enough to survive and opportunity to grow. His excitement built as this company looked to have huge potential. They were a small company that was growing. Problem was they were growing faster than they could handle. Two months later....... the company can't meet its financial obligations because the bank decides not to continue to back them. All funding is pulled out and they are left with no alternative but to close the doors. Once again Dave is without a job.

This job ended in September of 2009. Since that time no permanent employment has surfaced. Dave, being in the business of construction, has the ability to make money on his own but there is no security. Each small job pays what it pays and then you look for more work. This has been our existence since September.

Continued tomorrow.........

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Love One Another As Brother's

Mark 1:19-20 - When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went after Him.

James and John, brothers through and through, that’s what they were. They were called to follow together and are rarely mentioned apart in scripture.

So what does it mean to be brothers? Apart from being siblings or born of the same family, what does it mean to be a brother to someone? I know that some brothers in a family can be close and others are not but what would God require a brother to be like?

I Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.

We are to be of one mind, what else are we to be according to Peter? What does it look like to love someone as a brother?

Do you have a brother or sister? Are you tied you to them emotionally? There is something about a sibling that goes beyond a friendship. You are tied to one another by blood and the bonds run deep.

I had a little brother, his name was Kristopher. I was eight years older than him, so was always very protective of him. Oh, how he irritated me through the years of growing up. I got onto him, picked on him and at times made his life completely miserable. But I always loved him, if for no other reason than he was my brother.

As I grew into my teens and eventually moved away from home, he was still very young. We became more distant as the years went by and he grew older. Suffering from a debilitating disease called Trigeminal Neuralgia from the age of 14, he was in constant pain. After years of pain medication he became addicted. The decision became, be in constant pain or over medicated. In July of 2006 he made the irrevocable decision to take his own life and leave this world.

I miss him. I miss his smile and his dry wit. I miss everything about him. How I wish I had just one more day to talk with him and try to give him the encouragement he so needed. I would tell him that I care, that he is my brother and I would do anything to help him.

I guess what I am trying to make you understand by telling you this story is we need to love our brothers and sisters now while we have the chance. Because you never know, there may not be a tomorrow. There are no more chances for me to show my brother what my heart fells for him. There is day to spend time with him and show kindness to him now. My chances are over even though I long for one more. There is no tomorrow, now is the time to love one another.

Jesus talked a lot about loving as brothers. Not just as siblings born of the same family, but as the body of Christ being brothers and sisters. Just as our family of origin, when born into the family of Christ we become brothers and sister with one another. We have a family born of Spiritual connection, which should be stronger even than our physical family. This family will last not just while here on this earth but into eternity.

The message Jesus wanted us to get is, that we are all now brother’s and sister’s in Christ, so love each other like you are!

I John 2:10 - He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

If we love our brother, we abide in the light and don’t cause him to stumble. We are to take great care not to hinder the walk of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Wait, you mean instead of judging each other, being jealous of one another or pointing out someone’s flaws we should love each other enough to lift one another up?!? What a concept!

If you honestly evaluated your own love for others, how are you doing? Is there anyone you need to go talk with and mend your relationship?

There is nothing Satan wants more than to divide the body of Christ. He knows that if he can divide believers they will be less effective for the great commission. If we are busy fighting amongst ourselves he knows we won’t be out doing damage to his kingdom. He knows that believers that band together are a powerful force to be reckoned with.

Ecclesiastes 4:12 – Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Matthew 18:20 – "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."

The third cord represents Jesus. When we bond together with one another and Jesus is included, there is extraordinary strength to draw on. When two or more believers gather in Jesus’ name, He says He is with us. He even takes His promise further.

Matthew 18:19 – “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”

Jesus tells us that when we get together and start working towards Gods will, we can call on the Father and He will hear us. Not only will He hear but He will act. That’s pretty powerful! Satan doesn’t want us to be unified for the cause of Christ. This is exactly why! When we are unified and calling on God, people come to the saving grace of the gospel and leave Satan’s world behind.

When we love one another as brothers, we will be of one mind, pursuing the things of Christ. To follow as we are called is not on a road all alone. It is with brothers and sisters in Christ. We need one another. We are called to travel the road together, united by a common cause. All as one body but each with our own part to play. Bonded together in love, kindness and compassion for one another.

That is our journey as followers of Jesus, travel behind Jesus, go where He goes, but take a few brothers or sisters along with us.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Transformed Life

Today’s topic is exploding within my heart. I can hardly contain myself! Today we get to talk about the glorious power of God! We get to see the transforming power that happens when we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. I can’t wait any longer, so lets get started.

In previous posts we have seen Simon Peter as grateful and eager but still very impetuous. His behavior was unpredictable at best. Although he had the best of intentions, his follow through left much to be desired. His heart was in the right place but it didn’t stop his flesh from causing him to fail.

Several posts ago we saw Simon Peter fail greatly while denying Christ. Then we saw the grace that restored his faith and set him back on the right path. Today we look at the man God promised he would become. Today we see exactly what Jesus meant when he called Simon Peter the “rock”.

When the day of Pentecost came, all the disciples were together in one place. Suddenly, a sound like rushing wind came down from heaven and filled the whole house. Divided tongues of fire sat upon each of them and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in different tongues. Those standing near them, people of all kinds of dialects, heard their own language being spoken.

The crowd was filled with confusion. They were all amazed and perplexed. They began asking one another what this could be. Some believed it must be the wonderful work of God. Others began to mock, claiming them to be drunk with wine. Here is where we see our friend Simon Peter’s new nature. We see the beginning of his new life as a Spirit filled, transformed believer. No longer the wishy washy, all over the place person he once was. A new power had been given to him and a new life was set in motion.

Get your bible out and read Acts 2: 14-39. (I know, I know, it’s a long passage of scripture. Humor me and do it anyway!)

First Simon Peter rebukes the crowd and denies the accusation. "These are not drunk, as you suppose!" This was Simon Peter’s response. Can you imagine his anger boiling right below the surface? How dare they mock the power of God!

He then proceeds to quote the prophet Joel who had prophesied about the last days. "And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God. That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men see visions, your old men shall dream dreams." In the end the prophet Joel says that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Simon Peter, our unpredictable man, begins a bold testimony of faith about the one who truly saves, Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Finishing his speech with a strong declaration, Simon Peter says this, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."

When the crowd heard his testimony, the people were cut to the heart. They asked the disciples "what shall we do?"

Have you ever been cut to the heart by the knowledge of your own sin? Have you had that kind of feeling of regret and remorse set in? It takes hold of you. The gravity of what shape you are in causes the beating of your heart to become deafening.

I can picture their response as they spoke the words, what shall we do? The horror, we have just killed the one true Messiah, what shall we do?

Simon Peter's response to the crowd was the same response we need now in our own acknowledgement of sin. "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

What a bold statement made by someone who had earlier feared being connected to Jesus. Simon Peter with the filling of the Holy Spirit was transformed and forever changed. He was given the power to stand up for what he knew to be the truth.

That day, from that speech, about three thousands souls were saved and became believers in Jesus Christ. Simon Peter wasn’t finished though, John going with him, he proceeds to the temple at the hour of prayer.

Seeing a man lame from birth at the gate, Simon Peter gives this man something more precious than the money he was begging for. Instead, he takes his hands and says “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Rising up to walk, the man entered the temple with them, walking, leaping and praising God.

All the people ran together to hear this man speak who had healed the lame man they had seen in front of the temple everyday. Simon Peter let no grass grow under his feet as he once again testified to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Two thousand more souls were saved and became believers.

The temple abuzz and believers coming to Jesus Christ did not go unnoticed. Soon the priests, captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, putting them in custody until the next day. Simon Peter does not cower, but instead addresses the rulers, elders, scribes, the high priest Annas and Caiaphas. With bold testimony he speaks with the power of Holy Spirit.

Acts 4: 8-12. Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel; "If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."

What does Simon Peter call Jesus? He calls Him the stone which was rejected by the builders. But instead of that stone being tossed aside, God used it as the chief cornerstone of salvation. Rebuking them, Simon Peter points out that they had crucified the one God had chosen to be the stone; they indeed were the builders who rejected the stone. Then he goes on to proclaim the only way to be saved is through that very man, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Are you beginning to see the power of the transformation that occurred in Simon Peter’s life?

Here was a man who wanted to do the right things, who wanted to be strong and bold but could not. Not until he had the Holy Spirit within him, could he stand so strong for the Jesus he loved so dearly.

Beloved, it is the Holy Spirit within that carries the power to do the unthinkable. So often we try and try and try, only to fail and fail and fail. We proceed, doing things in our own power, not drawing on the one that can really change things.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The fruit belongs to the Spirit not us. His fruit is all of these wonderful things listed in this scripture. If we want this type of fruit in our lives, we must live empowered by the Spirit. The transformation that occurs is dramatic, and overwhelming if we let it change us.

Living within us, making His home in us is the Holy Spirit, the third part of the trinity of God. This is not something to be looked upon lightly. We can be over comers. We can be strong and powerful for our Lord Jesus Christ. But it won’t be us that does it; it will be by the yielding to the Spirit that it happens.

Transformation is ours if we want it. The power lives within us and wants to be the life force that guides us if we let Him. The question is will we let Him?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Honest Before God

I would like to stray from my usual path and speak to you from my heart. No lesson in the word today, no bible passage to explore and unfold for you. Just me getting really honest before God. An honest admission of where I am at this moment in time and the gripping truth of the reality that is unfolding around me.

In the last year I have come to the place of being laid bare and completely naked before God. I have to say that it is not a comfortable feeling and at the same time there is relief in it. I am bare. I am raw. I am full with emotion. No pretense, no unrealistic visions of who I am. Just standing here stripped of all things that made me think more (or at times less) of myself.

So.... what does that tell me? What have I learned? Who does that make me?

I see clearly now who I fall into being so easily. I see who I am in my flesh. I see who I am without the Spirit. I see God's vision of me and how far I have been from it. I see the wretchedness of my own humanity.

I can see clearly the "me" I do not want to be. I can see that person He is trying to mold out of me. The one He took out from the world and has gracefully, tenderly been remaking.

That woman called "me"; self adsorbed, prideful, selfish and unkind. A breaker of commandments. Not one commandment of the ten did I keep. Having other Gods, Lying, coveting, stealing, adultery and yes, even murder. I have broken them all, so much I have done wrong. I have no pretense or false view of what lies inside me.

I deserved nothing from God. Nothing but his disdain did I deserve. But I got none of that. Instead, mercy was placed at my feet. Mercy so full of love and blessing that I can't even grasp the magnitude of it. I was so lost and full of my own wanting. Yet, God chose to save me. Why? Why save me, Lord?

He must have seen something in this wretched heart of mine. Even in my sin He saw something He wanted to save. I can not grasp the love that does that.

In contrast, I can now see the glory of God! I see who He can make me. I see where He can take me. I see where I can go under His wing. I can reach for stars. I can find goodness and become clear, so His image can be seen in me.

Empty of myself now. Naked. I am ready to be remade. So I sit at His feet in wait. Patiently, I wait while praise rises up from my lips. Holy, Holy, Holy, my lips continue to utter. Mold Lord, as I praise You. I will stay at Your feet until You finish Your work. Submitting to Your will I stay till Your done.

Keep changing me Lord. The nakedness now has become a relief. I need nothing when You give it all. I only need the filling of Your Spirit to raise my heart to joy. It takes away the sting of this world and brings peace in return.

Keep remaking me Lord. I want what You want in me. I am Yours by the price You ransomed. Bought by a price that I could never pay. So I will not try. Instead, I will humbly yield so Your will can be done in me, in my life.

I am Yours and You are mine. That is enough for me. It is all I need while here on this earth, no matter what the road holds ahead of me.

So naked I will walk with my soul transparent before mankind. No mask to hide behind or false identity to feel safe or protected with. Only You shining Your glory through me for the world to see. Knowing that my sin and failures will scare some but bring hope to others. I will live to show that hope You bring.

It has taken much work for You to strip me bare. I held so tightly to the security of self doing that it made the task more difficult. The pruning was painful but I am looking forward to the buds in the spring. Like a flower that opens to the rays of the sun, I will watch Your glory revealed through me with awe.

In the end, after all has been said and done, my journey is worth just one moment with You. But that’s not all I get, just one moment. I get a lifetime, an eternity, that is my gain instead. For all of this, I am thankful.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Beauty of Grace

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me....
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.
T'was Grace that taught...
my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear...
the hour I first believed.

Amazing Grace, remember the old hymn? I can’t sing this song without it sticking in my throat from the emotion it creates in me. Grace, unmerited favor from God, it is truly amazing. I can’t imagine what would cause a Holy God to show favor on a wretch like me. But I’m grateful He has.

I love the second verse. T’was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace, my fears relieved.

Grace, it teaches us the fear of the Lord and then not to fear anything. The fear of the Lord means to stand in awe of the greatness of a Holy God. To be humbled in His presence because you understand His magnificence. But then grace allows us to fear nothing because we are loved by the very same God that we awe. We need not be afraid because He has covered it all, just for each of us.

Yesterday, we looked at the pain of great failure and how it affected the disciple Simon Peter. Today we get to see the kindness of a God that cares for us even when we fail. His grace is more than we can ever fathom. Let’s see how the grace of God restored Peter after such a serious transgression. Peter, who had denied Jesus three times and deserted Him, is restored the same amount of times.

John 21:15-17 - So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs."
He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep."
He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" An he said to Him, "Lord, YOu know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus sai to him, "Feed My sheep."

After the horrible denial in the courtyard of the palace of the high priest, while Simon Peter warmed himself on the coals of a fire, he left his commission behind. He had done the unthinkable; he had denied he was a follower of Jesus Christ. Now we see him by the Sea of Galilee, once again warming himself by the coals of a fire. This time he is sitting with the resurrected Christ when the conversation between them takes place.

Not once does Jesus ask Simon, Son of Jonah but three times. “Do you love Me?” Three times denied, three times restored. His commission was restored not once but three times, just as many times as it was denied.

Jesus knew Simon Peter; He could look in his heart and see that the denial wasn’t because of a lack of love. Jesus knew that Peter’s denial had come out of fear. He could have just let it go, but He didn’t. Why? Why would Jesus bring it up and make Peter reconfirm his commitment to Him?

I’m stretching a bit, but allow me a little leeway here. I think Jesus did it for Peter’s sake not His own. Peter would carry around that denial and mistake with Him where ever He went. Without Jesus clearing it up, Peter would probably ponder on it and it would torture him internally.

How often have you done that yourself? Have you carried your past failures around with you like a stone around your neck? Weighing you down and keeping you stuck?

God wants us to live in his grace not our failures. His grace is previous. It’s there even way before our failures. It was there way before Peter ever failed and it’s the same way for us.

Looking back at the first time Jesus met Simon Peter we see grace (the unmerited favor of God) bestowed.

John 1:41-42 – He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).

Jesus announced it to Simon Peter the moment he met him. ”You are mine; you will be the rock that builds my church.” Jesus knew Peter would fail him, even then. He knew way back then that Simon Peter would deny Him not once but three times. He knew all that and still pronounced His favor over him. The grace of God was there from the moment Jesus first laid eyes on Simon Peter.

We see the same previous grace with King David. We saw his failure with Bathsheba in our lesson yesterday. Now let’s look at the grace that was provided even before David saw Bathsheba.

2 Samuel 7:1-2 - Now it came to pass when the king was dwelling in his house, and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies all around, that the king said to Nathan the prophet, "See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells inside tent curtains." Then Nathan said to the king, "Go, do all that is in your heart, for the Lord is with you."

If we continue and read the rest of the story we see that night God give Nathan a different decision. The word of the Lord comes to him to tell him to deliver the message to David not to build a house for Him. Instead God tells David that he will instead build him a house, an eternal house that would extend all the way to Jesus. He would have a son and that son would be the one to build His house. That son was Solomon.

Before David sinned with Bathsheba. Before he killed her husband. Before he took her as his own wife. Before Solomon was born to them. Before David even knew he would sin, God knew and extended grace. Solomon would be the son chosen to build the house of God. Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba would be the one given to David to bless him with.

Grace was there before the sin. Grace was there even though God knew David would fail. Grace was always there.

So it is for us also. Grace is there before we fail. When we place our life in His hands, the very moment we do that, we have the unearned, unmerited favor of God. We are saved by grace but we also have it to live in daily. Grace doesn’t save us then go away. It is there with us to live in and carry us each day.

Lord, give us this day our allotment of grace. We need it. Every day. Every hour. Every minute.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Pain of Great Failure

Have you ever had a time in your life you wish you could turn back time or take back what just happened? Maybe something you said to someone. Maybe something you did caused you or someone else pain. Simon Peter felt that way once. Let’s look at his failure with Jesus.

Mark 14:27-30 - Then Jesus said to them, "All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night," for it is written: 'I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' "But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee. " Peter said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be." Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that today even this night, before before the rooster crows twice you will deny Me three times."

Mark 14:66-72 - Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, "You also were with Jesus of Nazareth." But he denied it saying, "I neither know nor understand what you are saying." And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him again and began to say to those who stood by, "This is one of them." But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, "Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it." Then he began to curse and swear, "I do not know this Man of whom you speak!" A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him. "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times." And when he thought about it, he wept.

Peter failed Jesus just as predicted. Once he realized his failure, he was filled with deep regret. So much so that he wept. Have you ever felt like you failed Jesus?

If we were truthful, we would all probably have countless times when we failed to be all that He requires of us. We all fail to live up to the standard that is set by Jesus. We fail our family, our friends, ourselves and our God probably more than we care to admit.

Some people would look at the times of their own great failures and decide to throw in the towel. Sometimes it’s an accumulation of small failures that make us believe we’ve just messed it up way to much. Some people do throw in the towel. They pack up their heart, and slink away believing they have done too much to be forgiven for.

Maybe this is you right now. Maybe you are the one still sitting in the pew but you have removed your heart from the game. Maybe you have completely removed yourself from the pew and left the church behind. Are you thinking that you have messed up so badly that Jesus could never take you back or He could never forgive you? Are you saying these words to yourself? “This could never be made right in God’s eyes.” “I could never be forgiven for this terrible thing I did.”

Many people say these things to themselves after they have failed. Not only do they say these things to themselves, they believe them. Then they live in their pain and failure for years.

Maybe your the one that has let so many small failures happen that your heart just feels cold and distant. You are going through the motions but your heart is removed.

Today, I want you to know something. You are not alone. You are not the only one that has failed God. You are not alone in your failures and your pain. The truth is, everyone alive has failed. Every person that has taken a breath on this earth has experienced some kind of failure in life. Some may have only experienced small failures. But too many people to count have failed God greatly.

I am one of the many, one of those that have failed God greatly. And yet he has still chosen to use me. Like Peter, I denied Jesus. I said I never knew Him. For eighteen years I walked away from the faith and forgiveness I was given. I lived life my way, and denied the saving power that He had bestowed on me. I failed to understand the gift He had given me. In the process I made many mistakes and lived a life steeped in sin.

For many of those years I believed my sin had become too great to be forgiven. I believed that if I were to come back and be with Jesus I would first need to clean up all the mess I had made of my life. But Jesus didn’t need me to clean up my life. He said to me “Just come home, I’ll do the rest.” You see, you and I are not alone in our failures. We have a Savior that understands our weaknesses.

The bible shows many examples of those that have failed in their service to God. There was David, the one considered to be after Gods own heart; he failed in a huge way. We have always heard so much about his heart being one that sought after God. What we forget about him is his flesh nature and how it led to his failure with Bathsheba.

II Samuel 11:1-4 - I happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Isreal; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw woman bathing, and the womans was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam,the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she send and told David and said, "I am with child."

David goes on to try and cover up his sin. He calls for her husband to be brought back from battle. Plotting, he tries to get Uriah to go home and sleep with his wife so the child will be thought of as his. But Uriah will have none of it, loyal to the King, he will not take pleasure while others are still in battle. In the end, David has Uriah strategically place in battle so he will meet his demise.

Through out this story David has one failure after another. He fails greatly just like all of us do. His first failure was being content in his success. Instead of going out to battle with his men like he always had, he decided stayed behind. Next thing you know we see him up on the roof lusting after Bathsheba. His sin could have stopped there but instead, he follows his fleshly desires. He sends for her and sleeps with her.

What consequences resulted? Bathsheba gets pregnant. At this point, David could have come clean with his sin but he doesn’t. He tries to cover the whole thing up and sends for her husband. Maybe if her husband sleeps with her, he will think the child is his. Then when he won’t go to his wife, David plots to kill him in battle. He sends him out to be slaughtered.

Whew! The deed is done, all has been covered up. Right?

Wrong. You hide from the world but you can't escape the eyes of God. His failure was not to man but to God. As much as he tried to cover up his sin, it could never be done. It was all there in the plain sight of God.

You would think after a horrible failure like this, God would have nothing more to do with David. In our mind, a failure like this could never be redeemed. God sees it different though, He forgives those that love Him.

Asa, the King of Judah was another of those we see in scripture that loved God but failed Him.

2 Chronicles 14:2 - Asa did was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.

Asa too had a heart that loved God. But it still didn't keep him from failure.

2 Chronicles 14:11 - And Asa cried out to the Lord his God and said, "Lord, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O Lord our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!"

2 Chronicles 16:1-3 - In the thiry-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might let none go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa brought silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and of the king's house, and sent to Ben-Hadad king of Syria, who dwelt in Damascus, saying, "Let there be a treaty between you and me, as there was between my father and your father. See, I have sent you silver and gold; come, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel, so that he will withdraw from me."

Asa was a man after God. He had sought God for direction. When he was up against an army many times larger than his, He sought the Lord for deliverance. Only to do the opposite later in his reign as King. The King of Israel comes up against him and instead of turning to God, Asa turns to neighboring countries. He sends word to the allies of his father to stand with him in battle. God could have provided what Asa needed, but he failed to even consult Him.

So often we do the same. We fail in small ways everyday. We fail to allow God to be there for us. We fail to trust Him. We fail to have just the smallest amount of faith.

Thankfully, it doesn’t end like that. We don’t have to sit in our failures with no way out. God always provides a way for us to be restored. In my next post, we will look at how God does that. But for today, know that you are not alone when you fail. The bible has seen many that failed in small and great ways. God understands and shows mercy on the repentant heart.

Don't let your failures keep you stuck in discouragement. Take heart because there is a God that will come to restore you.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Given a New Name and a New Identity

John 1:41-42 – He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).

Can you imagine? You walk up to Jesus and his first words to you are “You are Simon the Son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas.”

My reaction would have been simply “huh?” with a confused look on my face. You know the kind of look you get where one side of your lip turns up slightly and you cock your head to one side. It’s that look you get when you’re completely dumb founded.

I guess we can’t say for sure how Simon reacted to Jesus’ statement, but surely he was perplexed to say the least. Maybe he had that same look on his face I would have, wondering what exactly this new name meant for him. What ever his reaction, we know that this was an unusual statement to hear from someone he had never met before.

So what do Simon and his brother Andrew do after this encounter with Jesus? We can’t be sure of the timing or what they did immediately after, but they did eventually end up back home. The next time we see Jesus approach these two young men they are back home fishing.

Matthew 4:18-19- And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

Simon Peter’s response was to drop his net and follow Jesus. Later on as he is walking with Jesus he is asked a question “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus responds to Simon Peter’s answer with another declaration of who Simon Peter will be.

Matthew 16:15-18 – He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

In the period of time that Simon Peter walked on this earth, a name meant more than it does today. Back then you were given a name to describe who you were. Jesus called Simon the “rock”, meaning the foundation of the early church. He would be the solid one that built the church.

When Jesus called Simon Peter by a new name He wasn’t just wishing or predicting what would come. He was instead giving him a new life, a new purpose and a new destiny. Jesus was not a prophet telling a future prophecy. He was and still is the son of God, fully God himself. He needed nothing or no one else to help make this change happen in Peter. It was spoken. It was done. Destiny changed.

Our destiny also changes when we become a disciple of Christ. We are no longer the old person we were before.

2 Corinthians 5:17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Ephesians 4: 22-24 - That you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Colossians 3:3 - For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:9-10 - Do not lie to one another, since you have put of the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.

When we are in Christ we are born again, changed into a new creation. Old things have passed away, meaning they are to be gone from our everyday life. All things are made new. We are given a new name; He calls us His child, His beloved. All that we were, is forgiven and washed away, a new day has begun and the slate has been wiped clean. Because of this change we are not to hang onto the old self that we were before. That old person is corrupt and is driven by the lusts of this world. Instead we are to be renewed in the Spirit and put on the new destiny that has been placed before us. We are a new man/woman.

The Greek term for “new man” used in Colossians 3:9-10 depicts an individual, male or female, who possesses a “new nature” or a “new humanity”. It characterizes a metamorphosis in our conduct. That means a complete transformation takes place from a life of sin to one of righteousness. That metamorphosis is the same as being reborn or born again. I liken it to the complete metamorphosis of a caterpillar as it changes into a butterfly.

Jesus places His Spirit within us so we can walk the new life of the righteous man. Not that we will always do everything right or we won’t still struggle with sin. We will always struggle as long as we are here on this earth. It’s our character that God is concerned with. Our life should no longer be shaped or look like it used to look. We should be seeking to be more like Jesus everyday.

The process of changing is just that, a process. We will not wake up tomorrow and think every thought perfectly righteous. It takes a daily renewing. We are to hide the word of God in our heart, to fill ourselves with it so it can do the renewing process of changing who we are.

What we can be sure of that comes instantaneously is an assurance that our final destiny is secured. If we are truly one with Jesus Christ our final destiny is with Him in heaven.

We can also look forward to a different life. Since our life is no longer lived for ourselves, it is pretty safe to say that we won't end up where we thought we would before we met Jesus Christ. If you are seeking God on where to go in our life and what to do with your time and talent, chances are He will guide you where you never thought you would go. This seems to scare some people. I’ve heard some say; I’m not giving everything over to Jesus because if I do He might send me over to the rain forest where there is no running water.

Maybe that’s true. He may send you out to be a missionary. But I promise you, if He does call you to the mission field, you will want to go. Before He calls you to go He will place such a burden in your heart that you will go gladly. He will make you fall in love with the place He is sending you. In the end it will be you saying, send me Lord. Send me, I’ll go. Just like Simon Peter, we will be given a destiny for our life. Some of us will stay here. Others will go. What ever your calling is, you can be sure that Jesus will equip you with what you need to succeed.