A New Creation

he is a new creation…(2 Cor 5:17)

My husband enjoys taking up projects in our home. When we first bought our house he was determined to strip and repaint a door in our bedroom. It was a terrible brown color. The previous homeowners over the years just kept painting layer upon layer of new paint instead over the door instead of stripping the door and starting over.

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It took my husband close to two months to finish the project because it was terribly frustrating. It seemed like an impossible task, stripping through many years of bad paint jobs. Many times he told me he was giving up and just buying a new door. In fact, by the time the door was finished he had spent more money refinishing it than it would have been to buy a brand new door. However, once he finished the door, it was absolutely beautiful.

God is stripping away a lot of bad paint jobs done to our lives as well. The process, at times, is terribly frustrating and painful. We wonder when the job will be done. We wish He would just stop the stripping process, skip the hard parts and press the easy button on sanctification. Yet, there’s something beautiful underneath it all that He is trying to uncover. There’s something inside of you that He wants to show off to the world. It is the beauty of His character, His joy, His delight and His love that lives inside of you through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Why do so many believers live as half-finished doors? Because they just didn’t want God to “there.” If they couldn’t trust the person who hurt them, how can they trust God with it now? It’s human nature to believe the lie that God is like the person who hurt us. However, we must remember, it is not the stripping He delights in, but the end result that He sings over.

The more I grow in Christ, the deeper He goes. First, He starts on the surface. It’s less painful there. It’s when He really starts digging that we must learn to actively trust Him as He strips away deeply embedded lies, insecurity, and pride.

When my husband finished the door he was elated. He couldn’t wait to show me. Someday our Heavenly Father will present us as pure, and spotless without a stain or wrinkle upon us. Oh, what a glorious day that will be!

Father, thank you that YOU are making me new. You’re stripping off old patterns, lies, and comforts. Thank you that you’re not done with me. Thank you that you are making me new! In Jesus name, Amen!

Wanting Someone Else’s Life

each neighing for another man’s wife…(Je 5:8).

Not long ago my husband and I went to grab some lunch at a Mexican restaurant. My husband has this thing with getting, “the biggest plate of food.” It doesn’t really matter how good the food is, as long as his plate is the biggest. It makes me chuckle.

On this certain occasion, my plate of food was much larger than his. I noticed throughout our meal that he kept eyeing my plate with a look of disappointment covering his countenance. I finally said, “You keep looking at my food, did you want some?”

I have done this other times as well, longing for someone else’s life, money, family, marriage, job, or plate of food they ordered at the restaurant. Coveting someone else steals our joy and attention away from what is already ours in Jesus Christ.

I have spent far too many hours wishing for someone else’s’ life. If there is one thing the enemy loves to do it is distract us. He loves to keep our eyes off of the goodness of God. He loves to sway our hearts away from contentment. God desires for us to live in the present, asking for our needed manna for today. Whenever we dwell either in the past or spend our time wishing for a better future, maybe someone else’s perceived future we miss out on what we do have in Christ for today.

My dad always told me when he was growing up they didn’t have a pot to pee in. His father passed away unexpectedly when he was nine, leaving my grandmother as a young widow with two small boys. Yet, they had each other. They had food in their bellies and never had to go without with what needed to make it through that day. Life is so much more about perspective than our circumstances.

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Two men sit at the table of God’s provision, one man sees a bounty, while another sees a famine. I’m not sure where you come into today, but I can assure you that the rise of social media has not helped our wayward, wandering hearts from lusting after that which we do not have. Praise God today for the breath in your lungs. The joy of Christ that dwells in your heart through faith. The love and grace of God that forgives sinners like you and me. For these things, we can rejoice and be glad.

Our perspective of my praise really stems from what is stored up in the heart. Do not think for one second that contentment just comes naturally without careful forethought and personal surrender. Those who are most content are not those that have all their hearts could ever dream, but those who have chosen to be at rest in the promises of God.

Whenever the heart starts to wander you feel its tension drawing you. You feel its pull carrying you away from the bounty of God’s provision to the demanding of the must-haves. It could be God is not giving you what you want because He sees you have positioned it as an idol before Him, believing you cannot be happy apart from it.

Oh Lord, forgive us! We have all we need in you!

Lord, thank you. I have all I need in you for today. I want to be at rest in the promised land of your provision. Thank you that you will not disappoint. Thank you that your love reaches into my being and grants me joy beyond compare. Thank you that I have everything that I need in you. Forgive me when my heart wanders. I long to sit in the bounty of your provision, in Jesus name, Amen!

 

The Power of God Over Personal Preference

all people will see it together….Isaiah 40:5

The church is the force which God has chosen to reach the world for Christ. Whenever she forgets her role in God’s divine plan, the world loses sight of who Christ is, because she no longer directs them to HIs glorious light. The church, the people of God have a divine calling to go into the world and make disciples of all nations.

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The church is a place where the whole body is an extended family of families. When one hurts, the whole body hurts. When one family suffers, the entire body feels the weight of their grief. The problem is that we have fragmented ourselves from true fellowship. We do not know what community is because we believe God is more concerned with our “personal relationship” with Him than with our commitment to growing community with the family of God.

Do you personally need to make a decision for Christ? Yes, of course, that is absolutely essential, but from there, you now become part of a community with a mission for God bigger than you alone can accomplish. Could it be that the church lacks the power it was meant to have, not because God is unable to give it, but because His people have individualized themselves with inside the walls of the church?

Could it be that our desire to keep ourselves separate from other denominations with our meaningless quibbles over menial doctrines have polarized us? Far enough from each other that the power of Christ with the body of believers has been stifled because we prioritize preference over mission? If your church prefers serving communion every Sunday and mine only once a quarter should that really keep us from the mission of God together?

I truly believe one of the greatest distractions within the church has been our own desire to win an argument with other believers. I remember a number of years ago attending a bible study with other friends in Christ and each week we would debate about infant baptism. I kept thinking, wow, what are we doing? What if a non-Christian walked in here? They would never say these people are unified with a shared mission, they would say, “These people are crying over their own opinions and I find no reason to belong to such a group as this.”

Did Jesus debate? Yes, absolutely, but never in a way that kept people off the mission of God. Jesus was establishing a kingdom community. I would like to suggest that we are establishing our own kingdoms and calling it, “church,” or our own “personal relationship with God.” Until we too make the kingdom community our mission we will miss out on seeing the power of God lived out in the body of believers for God’s glory.

Father, many times the biggest problem in the church is not the style of worship, the color of the carpet or the choice of when and if we should do Sunday school, but people who are more concerned with personal preference than Christ. Forgive us, we have made church about us and not about you. Jesus, I long to see a movement of revival in my day. Raise up your people, we long to see your glory in Jesus name, Amen!

The Best Thing I Ever Ate

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied…. (Lk 6:21).

 
I remember climbing a huge mountain over in East Asia back in 2008. It seemed like we were up there for a good part of 27 days, but it was only for a few hours. All I could think about was lunch. I’m not sure what the calorie burn is for climbing a mountain, but I’m pretty sure its major maximum calorie burn, rivaling even the most intense of CrossFit workouts.
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The guy who was leading us kept talking about getting some hot pot for lunch. He said it was some big pot with a bunch of meat. I kept thinking, I want nothing to do with hot pot, I’m already sweating like a grizzly bear running a marathon.
 
As we descended down the mountain the thought of anything other than hot pot was heavy on my mind. And why were their not snacks somewhere on this mountain? That’s what I want to know.
 
When we got back into the city a few people went to get hot pot and the rest of us went to another restaurant in town. To this day, I have no idea what we ordered, but it was AMAZING. It may have been one of the best things I’ve ever tasted. I’m not sure if that was exemplified by the fact that I had to wait multiple hours, but it was extremely satisfying nonetheless.
 
Many of us are waiting for God to do something in our lives. We’re in a season of trudging up the mountain with God, wondering when the end and the His bounty are in sight. Truth be told, there’s great purpose in the perseverance of climbing the mountain with God. As we persevere, His bounty becomes that much sweeter. As we climb, our spiritual muscles grow.
 
The tragedy comes when we cannot wait on God. When we must take matters into our own hands, so instead of receiving the beauty of His provision, we call Dominoes for delivery. We sell ourselves short through our impatience. We lack the ability to trust God and His timing because we cannot see when this mountain range is going to end.
 
I remember thinking, as we were trekking along this mountain, “Does this guy who’s leading us know where he’s going????” Truth be told, I didn’t have a clue, so I had no choice but to trust him. If we could be honest, many of us ask the same question of God. It’s asinine to even entertain such a thought, but in our own understanding, we’re quick to go there. We feel the tension to take over control and God says, “trust me.”
 
The only way we can move from words on our mouths to actions in our hearts is to stay on the mountain. To walk through the rivers, valleys and steep ascent. Sometimes the only way to the top is through the valley.
 
Yet, there is a bounty that awaits us there. It is His provision. The best thing you’ve ever tasted, if you’d be willing to wait for it.
 
Jesus, I will wait for you. I want to taste your goodness. I often sell myself short trying to provide for myself and placing my trust, not in you, but it myself. I have been a fool. Lord, today I choose to walk by faith and not by sight. Lead me, guide me and pour out your Holy Spirit, in Jesus name, Amen.
 

Safe Faith: Hiding Who I Really Am

I will praise the name of God with a song;… (Ps 69:30).

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Praise the Lord, God is good, are terms we love to throw out as Christians. Yet, God desires not our lips, but our hearts. We cannot hide behind our lips what really lies within our hearts. We can try to do it with our fellowman, but we cannot, nor will we ever hide what we truly believe in our hearts from the Almighty.

God is taking me on a journey, past the amens, and praise the Lord, into the halls of the deepest recesses of my heart. I am recognizing there are things within those parts of my heart that I do not care for. There are parts of me that struggle to trust God. It’s in those dark places I’m recognizing how much I battle to surrender my will to the Lord Jesus Christ. There are pieces of me that want to throw up a fist and say, “It’s not fair!” I don’t like those parts God is showing me.

Our church culture tends to stay safe on the surface. We measure growth by what we do, not who we become. We say we want to make disciples, but first and foremost, we must be willing to become one ourselves. Which means letting God go into the places where we have believed someone erroneously wrong about Him.

We’d rather smile and throw up a Praise the Lord! Then, be honest with the fact that we are deeply battling against some wrong belief about Him. We feel like our honesty makes us less spiritual, but quite frankly, we’re all the same. All of us battle against the fears that reside deep within us. To negate this reality keeps not just us, but our church communities from deeper transformation.

I believe one of the reasons why we often don’t feel comfortable to share what’s really going on in our lives is because we’re always asking ourselves the question, “if I share, will this person still accept me?” A voice within our heart says, “no, they won’t. They’ll believe you to be unspiritual and unfit for Christian service.”

However, if this was the case, we should all sit quietly in our homes and never venture to do anything for Jesus. Then, wait for all the perfect people who have it all together to rise up to do work for the Kingdom. It could also be that our church cultures have not created a place to be real, raw and honest about who we are. This means we must change the way we’re doing church.

Since our culture is so obsessed with performance we believe God is too. We measure our level of worth with God based on what we can accomplish for Him, not who we can become for Him. Could it be that the greatest growth comes not through our programs, but through His people? As God grows His people, He grows His church.

This type of approach requires a complete shift in our thinking. It means we must be willing to go with others to hard places and we must be willing to do the same. It means that church isn’t driven by programs, but by relationships centered on love, accountability, honesty, and transparency.

I am learning all of this, but it’s getting tripped up on its way into my heart. Pray for me, as I will pray for you, that God will strip away from me wrong beliefs and thoughts about Him. Which have wrongfully created within me a fear to trust Him. A fear to let go. A fear to believe that He really is enough for me, even when I feel like I’m wading out in the sea.

God, you know that I struggle. Yet, I want to be more like you. This is a hard journey you and I are on. You never promised it would be easy, but you did promise to never leave me nor forsake me. You did promise that your grace would be sufficient for me. I long for more of that grace to fill my heart and I long for the words, “I trust you,” to not just be words from my lips, but ones I actually believe in my heart. In Jesus name, Amen.

When Following Jesus Isn’t Fun

as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare….(1 Co 14:25).

I’ve gotta be honest, sometimes I don’t really like being made more like Jesus. It’s not that I don’t want to become more like Him. It’s that the deeper I go with Him the further He goes into the places of my greatest fears and insecurities.

Sometimes I feel tempted to push the pause button on the whole process of sanctification. As those buttons of control and comfort start to get pushed in me it feels safer to get out of it and back into place I’ve always known. The place of my own perceived comfort and safety.

At the depth of this is a lack of trust in God. I think I would be a lot like the Israelites who gathered extra manna for the day because they weren’t sure if God would provide for the following day. I think sometimes, my faith is very small because of my own self-sufficiency and independence.

Jeremiah says, “The LORD is my portion, therefore, I will wait for Him.” (Lam 3:24)

In ancient Israel, the land was everything. The land was the place of safety, comfort, and provision. To not have land would have been a devastating place to be. Yet, Jeremiah says, “The LORD is his portion,” or in other words, “The LORD is my provider.” We do not need the land to meet our needs, but only the LORD. The put this in modern terms, we do not need our bank accounts, jobs, talents, or well planned out life to provide for us. We need only the Lord. Yes, of course, we should be wise in all of these areas, but if we find comfort in them outside of the Lord, do not be surprised when God starts to strip a few away to see what you will do.

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When God starts to take me to those places of discomfort I often feel a sadness in my heart. It is not a sadness birthed from righteousness. It is a sadness birthed from a lack of faith. It is a sadness that comes from a deep place in my heart that wants to be in control. It is a sadness that wants to push God and others to the side to become my own “independent woman.”  Yet, I am also sad that I have found such comfort in life apart from God. Oh Lord, forgive me!

Eve’s sin wrestles within me. The deception of the enemy tries to pervade my soul and my freedom in Christ. He is crafty. He knows what buttons to push, but those who are seated with Christ are free and safe in His promises. I get that in my head, and I long for my heart to be in full agreement with what I know to be true about God.

Oh Lord, you are trustworthy! You are my portion! I will wait for you! Thank you for taking me to these places that are testing my faith in ways I have never been tested. This is a good place because this is the place where you will show off your glory. If I start to run, because I’m afraid, call me back to the place of trust! I long to be made more like Jesus, but sometimes I’m afraid. Forgive me for my lack of faith! Today, I long to sit with your in your promises, in Jesus name, Amen!

Self-Appointed Kings: The Exaltation of Self to Further My Own Kingdom

Saul said to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and run me through…(1 Sa 31:4).

One of the worst things that could have happened to Saul was to become King. It was not something he was ready for and he proved it throughout his Kingship. He spent the majority of it living and operating out of fear, making rash, hasty decisions and walking in his own idea of wisdom. Which, in the end, was total foolishness.

Many of us long for something, quite frankly, we are not ready for too. I’ll be honest, for many years I lived hoping to get ahead. I hoped to become some big, known name in the Christian market. However, more recently I have been thanking God for not allowing me such a platform because quite honestly I would not have been ready for such a thing. Mostly because my attitude would have been directed by pride, feeling as though I deserved such a thing.

Oh, Lord, forgive me! I have been so foolish!

Many of us long to become “King” of something in our lives. It could be within our occupations, over communities, hobbies, families, finances or futures. We love the idea of being a powerful person. In a sense, we want to be our own god- to be praised by man. We feel we deserve it because after all, we are the most important person in our own eyes.

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Some of us have tasted what we have wrongfully longed for. Now, all we can recall is what once was. We cannot accept the place at the table of least significance because we keep going back to the days when we had the most prominent seat.

God is taking me on a journey to be less than so that others might be raised up. To be of little significance and position for the purpose of praising Him in all circumstances. This is a good place to be. For I know, in all things, He is working this together for the glory of His Kingdom and not mine.

If we cannot celebrate the accomplishments of others, feel threatened by them or become insanely jealous, our lives will walk the bitter path of destruction. Saul walked such a journey. Until we repent we will too.

It would be wise for us of to stop begging God for what we want and start praising Him for not giving it to us. He knows, if and when we’ll be ready. There’s no sense trying to convince Him otherwise. Because if you keep at it, He may give you a taste, which quite honestly, could be one of the worst things for an ill-prepared heart. Who gets the most glory in your asking, you or God? If it’s you, back down and put yourself in a posture of praise. Get out of the way to exalt the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ.

Jesus, thank you. Thank you that I am of little significance. Thank you that you are a BIG and mighty God. Thank you that you are the great I AM. You are in total control of our lives. Thank you for not giving us everything we ask for. Jesus, make us more like you. Give us the grace and patience to wait upon you with joy, in Jesus name, Amen!