Treasures Within

I grew up in a region of our country where anthracite coal beds formed, because of this there were many different types of rocks around the area.

As a young girl one of my favorite places to go was the community pool and playground because rising up around this area were step-like hills with trees and wildflowers on them. I would love to climb and play on these hills. It was here that I found many “rock treasures.” Among these were: sparkling rocks glittery on the outside; some with quartz crystals attached; some thin and clear like with layers like mica; some striated orange and gray. Of course I found the expected, shale and slate. I always felt like I was finding treasure.

The most amazing find was a small, ordinary looking rock that when cracked open it had beautiful crystal structures inside it. I later found out those rocks are called geodes.

Empty Spaces Transformed
According to an article I read, geodes are rocks that have an empty space inside them.  As it rains or as various water sources flow through pores on the rock to the inside, over time, crystals from the various minerals in the water form and transform the rock into a beautiful and valuable gem.
Purple GeodeDifferent elements can affect the color of the crystal. For example trace elements of manganese can cause a pink crystal, while iron can cause purple. Heat is another factor of change. Heat can cause the purple crystal to turn to yellow or citrine. Geodes are a beautiful works of God.

Treasures Within
Geodes remind me of how God transforms us. In a sense we are God’s true geodes who reflect His glory and His image. God takes my empty soul,my rocky hard heart, my fleshly self and transforms me into His radiance. Consider these truths about what God is doing in us.

2 Cor. 3:18 tells us that God is transforming us from our fleshly self into His image, into the image of His character and glory. The word transform (metamorphoó) means to change into another form. So God is working in us to change our inner fleshly nature into the essence of His character that we would have the same excellence that shines in Christ.

 “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who
is the Spirit.”  2 Cor. 3:18 (ESV)

In Romans 8:29 we read the truth that God is conforming us to the image of His Son.
The word conform (symmorphos) implies a changing to make similar to or the same as. We are being changed from the inside, much like the geode, to be like Jesus. We are being fashioned into the likeness of Jesus character.

 “For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers.”Romans 8:29

We are self oriented. We are fleshly and prone to follow our fleshly nature. God changes, transforms and conforms us to His image. God fills us with His Spirit, with His nature with His fullness.  This is astounding but it is true. This truth is reflected in several places in scripture.

In Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians he points to this truth in verse 19.
“… so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”  Ephesians 3:17-19

In Ephesians 4:13, Paul points to the truth that the whole church, the body of Christ, is being brought to be the fullness of Jesus. So even in the church with all our different strengths, weaknesses, agreements and disagreements, the goal of God our Father is to bring the church into the fullness of Jesus.

“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4: 11-13

Christ in You
These truths deserve more intense study, deep consideration and prayer as to what they mean to us. They express God’s true intention towards us. In closing, consider this:

“. . . the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:26-27

Faith and Authority-The One and Only Series-2

A fierce gale arose upon the sea. The winds where howling and the waves were tossing the sturdy fishing boat around like a toy. Waves were breaking over the boat with such intensity that seasoned fishermen were crying out in fear and panic. The One who was asleep in the stern awakened to cries for help. He stood up in the heaving boat and spoke to the wind and the sea, telling them to be silent and still. Immediately, there was calm.

This account in Mark 4:35-39 provides a glimpse of the emotion and wonder of the disciples as they witnessed the supremacy and the authority of Jesus.

In a recent blog entry, we referenced the supremacy of Jesus Christ as described in Col. 1:15-20, and we looked at snapshots of the power of Jesus in gospel accounts. We are going to look at a few more examples of this to encourage our faith.

His Wonders Lead to Faith
Numerous passages in the Old Testament reveal how important it is for us to sit up and pay attention to the wonders of God. One such passage is Psalm 106:7.

In Psalm 106: 7, the psalmist relates the failure of Israel to “consider” the wonders of God which led them to be unfaithful to God.

“Our fathers when they were in Egypt did not consider Your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of Your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea …” Ps. 106:7

“Consider” means to think about; give attention to; take it into their mind and heart and connect it to their faith. They did not give weight or value to the wonders God performed, and this led them to be unfaithful to God.

It is important for us to look at the signs and wonders that Jesus performed and to connect them to the supremacy of Jesus that we read of in Col. 1:15-20.

For the purpose of this writing we will focus on Col. 1:16-17, which emphasizes Jesus’s authority and supremacy over all things.
“For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Authority over Essence
We can read about the signs and wonders that Jesus did in all four gospels. In amazing show of Jesus authority recorded in John 2:1-11, Jesus changed water into wine at a wedding feast at Cana. He changed the essence of water H20 into wine with a basic chemical composition of CH3CH2OH.

In this one action Jesus shows us that He has the power and authority to change the internal natures and or essences.

When I take time to “consider” this wonder, to give it the value and the weight it
deserves, I begin to understand that knowing this truth about Jesus’s authority gives me hope for my life.

The fact that Jesus changed water into wine at a wedding feast 2000+ years ago gives you and me hope. While this sign in itself shows the glory of God and who Jesus is and it was intended to produce faith in the apostles (John 2: 11), it does the same for us; it shows us who Jesus is and produces faith in us. (“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
John 20:31)

Authority to Change Me
Considering this wonder more deeply shows me that Jesus has the authority to change me. He has the authority to help me make lasting changes in my character that I thought were impossible for me. Weaknesses and failings that I considered were just me, a part of my temperament or a non erasable scar of my life experience.

Jesus changes me into a new creation.
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!  All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…” 2 Cor. 5:16-18

He can change my prideful self into a humble soul. He can change my tendency to be fearful and deceitful into being courageous and truthful.

Scripture uses terms such as transform; restore; regenerate; renew; new heart, new creation, etc. All these are associated with the authority of Jesus to affect the nature and essence of a being or thing.

In fact scripture says that when we believe in Him as the Son of God and step out to obey Him, He begins transforming us into what we were always meant to be in relation to Him.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord (Jesus), are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Cor. 3:18

A Closing Prayer
God, Most High, open the eyes of our heart and help us understand more truly who
Jesus is and to grasp what His power and authority mean to our everyday life and our faith. May we see Jesus for who He is and honor Him.

The One and Only

My understanding of Jesus has been fashioned by things I have seen and been taught from birth. I believe this filter has hindered me in knowing Jesus in a more true sense, even as I have been searching the scriptures. I believe we need to pray and ask God for clear, untainted sight when we come to learn of Jesus.

Recently I read a beautiful description of Jesus in Colossians 1:15- 20.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the Head of the body, the church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.”

In five verses Paul the apostle shows us that Jesus is God and that He has supremacy over everything. This is a powerful passage and has much to teach about Jesus, and is worthy of your own in-depth personal study.

Jesus Supremacy Looks Like…
Let’s look at some snapshots in Jesus’ life that give us a glimpse of the supremacy that Paul outlines in Col. 1:15-20.

Jesus Walking on Water
In Mt. 14:22-33, we see Jesus power and authority over what we call “natural laws.” Jesus, as the Author of the laws of nature governing water, has the authority to have those laws obey Him and in fact to supersede those laws and walk on top of the water. He did this in the midst of wind and waves.

Jesus walked on the water and He made Peter able through faith to walk on the water. When Peter went under Jesus brought Him up and walked with Him on the water back to the boat.

The Wind and Waves Obeying Him
In Mark 4:35-41, we see the apostles and Jesus in a boat on the Lake Gennesaret, also known as the Sea of Galilee, when a significant squall arose. A squall involves violent winds and water turbulence. It must have been severe enough and life threatening for the apostles, some of whom were seasoned fisherman, to cry out to Jesus for help.

Jesus was quick to intervene on their behalf. He spoke to the wind one word, “Quiet!” and to the waves He said “Be still!” Immediately there was calm. Jesus has supremacy over all the elements of nature and the laws that sustain their existence.

Dark Powers Submitting
When we turn to this photo, we come to a scene that would be a dream come true for the Capernaum paparazzi. Picture this: the young Rabbi Jesus teaching in a synagogue in which there is a demon possessed man shouting out challenges at Jesus, Luke 4:31-44. We see Jesus turning to the man and commanding the demon to come out. It immediately obeyed, coming out, but first acknowledging that Jesus is God.

Sin Forgiven and a Man Healed
A highlight in these snapshots is seen in Mark 2:1-12 This is a clear picture of the authority of Jesus to forgive sins. Men bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed. To the astonishment of everyone, Jesus forgives the man’s sins. Then to prove His authority and power over the spiritual bondage of sin, He heals the man’s paralysis.

What does this mean to me?
Each of these selections from the gospels show us several truths about Jesus that comfort our souls. For example. in the account of Jesus calming the storm I can take comfort and trust that Jesus will help me in the various storms of my life. We can find similar faith building and life assisting truths in the other accounts, also. I believe these passages show us more than faith affirming and comforting  truths.

The truth is they clearly define the supremacy of Jesus. I believe that is the main truth expressed in Colossians 1:15-20, as well as by the accounts in the gospels. Understanding and acknowledging that Jesus is pre-eminent and has supremacy over our “self” is greatest truth we must realize and respond to in our life.

For me, seeing this truth intellectually is easier than daily bringing myself under the supremacy of Jesus. I would like to encourage all of us to pray that God will help us know and understand the supremacy of Jesus, and help us to obey Him like the wind and the waves.


“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

Thrive in Hope

Thrive in Hope
Recently I read a true story of a man who was trapped in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. It was almost too late by the time he and some colleagues knew what was happening and decided to get out. They made it to the 22nd floor when the building began to collapse down on them. He huddled down in a corner on the landing as the walls ripped apart around him. He thought of his wife and that he would never see his unborn daughter whom they had named Hope.

The last thing he felt was a blast of hot air coming down on him as the walls tore apart. As he was swept forward through thick debris, smoke, and dust, he saw patches of light, patches of hope. He woke up on top of a small chunk of the stairwell landing on top of a 7 story high pile of debris, alive looking up at blue sky. All others in that stairwell perished.

They call this man the 9/11/01 surfer, because he seemed to have ridden a wave of air out of certain death into life and Hope.

Hope and Associates
Hope is a beautiful word. It radiates life, light, joy, peace and promise of good to come. The Bible has much to say about hope.

In the Old Testament there are several words used for hope. In general it means confident expectation of good to be experienced. It often carries with it associations with of waiting, anticipating, looking forward to, and trusting in.

In Psalm 25:5, “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long;” the word hope carries with it the idea of constant waiting in expectation for God’s acting in our life.

In Psalm 33:18, “Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in His steadfast love;” the word hope has the idea of tarrying, waiting, remaining, abiding with expectations of God’s love.

Hope is a confident expectation. The expectation is so certain that it leads to praising God for its fulfillment, sometimes even before it is fulfilled. Psalm 71:14 expresses this thought; “But I will hope continually and will praise You yet more and more.”

In Psalm 71:5, we see that hope and trust are used in conjunction with each other: “For You, O Lord, are my Hope, my Trust, O Lord, from my youth.” Faith is at the heart of hope.

A New Testament, a New Language, a Same Hope
In the New Testament the concept of hope permeates the story of Jesus and the epistles. It is stronger in that the reason for hope, the author and fulfillment of all hope is a reality in our world.

The Greek word “elpis” is most often used for hope and it means a confident expectation of good; a joyous and confident expectation of salvation in every sense and eternal life.

Jesus Is Our Hope
Hope is the foundation to our relationship with God. Hope is Jesus Christ, Himself.

In Col. 1:27, Paul leaves no doubt as to who our hope is: “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

This hope is based on the resurrection power of Jesus: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Peter 1:3.  Hope is living and breathing.  It is God in Jesus Christ – “Waiting for our blessed Hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” Titus 2:13.

Why This Hope?
The very nature and character of God transmits hope. God is faithful, steadfast, true, righteous, loving, wise and all powerful. He always loves and works on our behalf. Let’s review God in action – Hope.
Hope is:

  • Jesus reaching out and touching the leper before he was healed (Mt.8:3). This gives me hope that he will touch me, all spotted, marred and deformed by sin, and make me clean.
  • Jesus calling the blind man to come to Him while everyone else tried to hush him (Mk. 10:46-52). This gives me confident expectation that He will hear me though other voices try to tell me He doesn’t, and that He will open my eyes to Him.
  • Jesus feeding 5,000 people from five loaves and two fish, while the apostles are counting their change and wondering how can we buy for so many and how can we get it here (Mk. 6:32-44). This inspires me to trust that God will supply all my needs and that He will feed me His Bread from Heaven and cause me to thrive, (John 6:51).
  • Jesus allowing a desperate woman to touch His garment as He passes through a crowd. He allowed power to go from His body to heal her, while others are annoyed that He asked who touched me, (Luke 8:43-48). This gives me confidence to know that in the busy-ness of life and the press of many needs, Jesus will take time to touch my life. His power will lift me up and purify me so I can stand before Him.
  • Jesus standing outside the tomb of His friend, Lazarus when all hope for life is gone. People are standing around grieving wondering why didn’t you come and heal him before the finality of death, as Jesus called His friend out of death to life. (Jn. 11: 30-44). Jesus has the power to call us out of the death of sin and give us new life. If you know your “self” and your sin, you know this is true hope.

Hope – the Anchor for Our Soul
My hope to live and thrive in this life is not contingent upon my knowledge, skills, looks, health, achievement or heritage, though I often try to make it that. My hope is in the living Son of God, Jesus.

Jesus was the very sacrifice with which He entered into the presence of God for me.  It is through His atoning work that I have hope. (Hebrews 6:19-20b – “We have this hope as an anchor for our lives, safe and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner…”).

No matter how battered we are by life, we have hope. No matter how many waves we ride through life’s trouble, we have hope. No matter how often we sit on the debris of our life, hope abides. No matter how low or discouraged we are, we have access to thriving in the middle of it all through our faith in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Hope of glory.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him,
so that you may overflow (thrive) with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13

Helping Others: by Jeannine Loftus

Introduction: by Lory Demshar:
This is an article written by my friend Jeannine Loftus. Jeannine has been through many trials so she is acquainted with suffering and grief. I asked her to write about what it takes to help others through difficult times, and how to help people grow.

Divinity in Helping
We may view helping others as a lower or subservient position. But in truth it is a role that God, Himself, fulfills in our life. In Psalm 54:4 David calls God his helper. In Psalm 27: 9, David praises God because He, God, has been his helper. In Psalm 46:1, the psalmist says God is an ever present help for us.  So when we are helping others, we are being like God.

God Directs Us to Help Others
There are many directives in the Bible to help others.

  • “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” Proverbs 19:17 (ESV)
  • “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” 1 John 3:17 (ESV)
  • Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”” Hebrews 13:6 (ESV)
  • “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38 (ESV)
  • “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”. Galatians 6:2 (ESV)

There are so many more scriptures that can be shared on this topic and there is no question that this was the example of Jesus in healing physical ailments, forgiving sin, loving people, walking with them in their grief, teaching, spending time etc. This is not optional for us as followers of Jesus, it is essential to our own salvation, consider this scripture.

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:14-17

 How to Help Others
When reading an article like this most people tend to gravitate to the part of the article that provides practicals.  They look for a quick list of ideas for helping someone. You won’t find that in this article, but here are some principles to help.

Immerse yourself in God’s Word and Communion with Him
Be someone God can whisper to through His Holy Spirit. He does this, when we are in step with God, He puts people and actions on our hearts and if we obey His prompting, we find that God uses us to meet a need at the perfect moment. This is not always easy. Sometimes this is a battle with our fleshly nature. We may push down those promptings when the still quiet words say, “You should call that person,” or whatever nudging we receive.  If we keep pushing those thoughts down and away, we lose touch with them and with God and his Spirit.

Listen for the Needs
When you learn of a difficulty someone is going through, think about the person and the situation, and ask yourself, “What would I need in a similar circumstance?”  Maybe you will need to do the laundry; take care of their children; have coffee and just talk with them; or, have a time with God together of reading the Word of God and praying.

You’ll know best what the needs are if you visit with them and talk to them. If you talk and listen, you can hear the deeper needs that someone has.

I had a period of extended illness some years ago and had one friend who was amazing. She would just jump in and do whatever she saw as a need. At one point, it came out that my head was muddled during what was going on and I was paying my bills late. She offered to help me by taking it over for a bit. She got that under control and then automated some payments for me etc. That released an incredible burden from my shoulders, larger than I realized. Our inability to perform such tasks can become a point of shame for us.

Talk and Share
The caveat in talking and sharing is to share, but keep the focus for the benefit of the other person. Don’t let the conversation become all about you. Don’t talk to expel your own grief or issues. Focus your sharing on what you learned from your experience; what you have learned about how God worked; and what you needed in that time, Such sharing can open people up to talk more deeply.

People can feel ashamed and want to hide their spiritual struggles during the tough times, but that is the time they most need to feel loved and accepted. Sharing how you struggled with some issue will be helpful. They will feel that you can relate to them. They will need reassurance that as people we all grapple to understand what God may be working out, and it won’t always look/sound pretty but if they are to grow through it they need to feel heard.

Lead Them to God
In whatever ways you are helping, whether in physical action or in a listening capacity the most and best we can do for people is to help lift up their eyes to see their Creator for who He is.

There is something about difficult times that flips a switch for us, many of us (myself included) immediately begin to wonder if God is displeased with us. We may even progress to the thought that God doesn’t love us.  Or, we may think, “God loves me but I’m not sure if He likes me very much.” We need help to think differently.

Again, I go back to a time of my own illness and difficulty. A time when a faithful friend helped me keep my eyes fixed on God. When the ridiculous thoughts came up she pointed me to the scriptures so I could see the truth about who God really is, how He views me and interacts with me. She was patient, faithful and loving no matter how many times I wrestled with the same thoughts.

Jesus Our Example
There are a lot of ways to help people. Jesus is our role model in this. He knew when a touch was needed with a leper or when He needed to allow a sinful woman to clean His feet. He knew when His disciples needed to be with Him. He knew when they needed a sharp rebuke and to face truth. Jesus knew His followers and what each one needed. He spoke differently to Thomas, than He did to Peter or John. We will do well to be immersed in the Bible and to know God and His example in Jesus, and imitate Him.


God Makes All Things New

Alfred Tennyson said. “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come. . .”  What a word picture! Do you stand at the brink of this new year wishing all things could be new for you, looking with hope towards this new year?

It is true, many people celebrate the New Year with a sigh of relief concerning things difficult, painful and troublesome that occurred in the old year with an expectation of better things to come in the New Year. Each New Year brings with it the promise of a fresh start, and new blessings.

God is a fan of “new!”
New means something that is just brought into existence, or something that is different from the old, or former things.

The term “new” is used approximately 131 times in the Old Testament and 54 times in the New Testament. God talks about all types of new things: a new name (Is. 62:2; Rev.2:17); a new song (Is. 42:10; Ps. 40:3); a new covenant (Jer. 31:31; 1 Cor. 11:25); a new commandment (John 13:34); a new birth (1 Peter 1:3); a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26); a new man (2 Cor. 5:17); a new life (Rom. 6:4); a new attitude, and a new self (Eph. 4:23-24).

The thought of ushering in a new year with God holds promise for real change.

Re-think Resolutions
All newness begins in God, because it is He who makes all things new (Rev. 21:5), including you and me.

Most people approach the New Year with the thought of change; of some-how making things different, better or new. Many people make resolutions – a list of things they want/need to change; things they want to add to their life; things they want to re-new or re-do.

A resolution is a resolve, a firm decision to do something that you were not doing.  A resolution is a statement, a plan for change.

Is there anything you need to change, or want to change? (Maybe you want to change an attitude about life, or about someone; a habit that is harmful to your physical or mental health; a pattern of hurtful interactions within your relationships; a mindset of being critical and negative; a prideful or self-sufficient spirit; or _______________ (you fill it in).

A Resolution by Any Other Name Is…
Believe it or not, changing our mind or renewing our mind is repentance! In the New Testament of the Bible, repent comes from the Greek word metanoia which means a change of mind; a change in the inner man; a change of thinking and of purpose. In the Old Testament repentance is the concept of turning to God and away from sinful ways.

Repentance involves a turning away from our “selves” and our ways, and a turning to God.

Acts 17:30 describes repentance in a very clear way:
“God overlooked the times when people didn’t know any better. But now He commands everyone everywhere to turn to Him and change the way they think and act.”

Repentance is a word that some modern thinkers find repugnant or old fashioned. Yet to change how we think and act is the very definition of repentance.

The New Year is a time when we think of change. Resolutions are resolves and plans to repent and change.

Renewal Begins in Our Mind
In truth, God calls us to change all the time. God is all about change.

In Romans 12:2, God speaks to us about change and renewal:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed (changed) by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”

In other words, do not remain molded to your old, ineffective ways of thinking about your life and then acting, but allow your way of thinking to be changed.

Part B of this verse indicates that the renewing of our mind involves the will of God. It involves learning how to think about life and our selves the way God sees us; the way God wants.

Renewing our mind in this manner involves the Word of God. God’s will is in His Word, the Bible. Make a resolve to read the Word of God every day, so that you can know the will of God and begin to change, to have your “self” and your life transformed.

Change Is Refreshing
As we read through to the end of this verse we see that such a renewing by changing our mind produces something good and pleasing. Isn’t this the main idea of why we want to change certain things in ourselves and our lives?

Such change or repentance leads to inner peace, contentment, strength and refreshing, that comes from the presence of God in our life as indicated in Acts 3:19.

“Now change your mind and attitude to God and turn to Him so He can cleanse away your sins and send you wonderful times of refreshment from the presence of the Lord.”

God, Our Power to Change
There have been years I have made resolutions concerning things I wanted to change and things I needed to change, yet within 3 months of those resolutions I gave up.

You may say well you didn’t have the right plan; or you did not persevere; or you did not have the encouragement from others to change. Possibly all those are true, but the truth is I tried to do them in my own strength.

Change is hard. It is a process that occurs overtime. It does require perseverance, self-discipline and support from others; but, it also requires the acknowledgement of the active presence of God in our lives and the turning to Him. Turning away from our “self,” our thinking, and turning to God is not a one-time event, it is a daily, even hourly, act of trust and reliance on God, His love and His power.

God is the champion of change and He provides what we need to change.

2 Corinthians 3:18 clearly describes this process:
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

The English Standard version of this verse indicates that with the help of God we are being changed to be like Him, to have His heart and His character degree by degree. This is a truth.

The fact is that God is working in me, that I am not left to make these changes on my own, and, that I am not expected to change overnight, gives me hope. God’s life giving and life changing power are working with me, in me and for me.

So, I urge you to re-think your resolutions this year. Bring God into your resolutions! Renew your mind, and turn to God to be transformed. Remember these changes are a part of our walk with God. We may fail at times, but He will not fail us.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”  Lamentations 3:22-23

P.S. A friend of mine recently published a book about chances for change. The title of this book is “Every Day Is A New Chance” by Jeanie Shaw. It is published by Illumination Publishers.



God, the Gift Giver

During the Christmas holidays many people practice a tradition of gift giving. However, there are those who criticize this as materialistic. While the gift giving aspect of the holiday can be characterized by greed and commercialism, I would like to suggest a different way of looking at this practice. Although we know neither the day or season in which God Incarnate came into this world, we do know the scriptures say that God gave His Son, John 3:16.

God gave of Himself in coming down in the” Son of God – the Anointed One” to live among men, to become the true sacrifice of atonement for sin. This was the greatest gift of all. Gift giving by us, at any time of the year, imitates the love and grace of God.

God has given us many gifts. Let’s review some of the gifts God gives to us. It is difficult to talk about just one of these gifts, because they are inter-related. They all flow into each other.

 Grace unto Salvation
There is a popular Christmas song that talks about being nice or good as meriting gifts at Christmas time. Yet, God gave the gift of His Son when we were at our worst state; still His gift came from His love and good intent to us.

  • “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
  • “For at just the right time, while we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6
  • “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

I am very drawn to this next passage since it shows that God’s grace was not just an afterthought. God did not just give something to give it; nor did He re-gift something. God did not impulsively or on the spur of the moment get and give this gift. But He deliberately chose to give this gift; carefully planned and worked through time the giving of this gift of grace. This makes me feel especially loved and provided for.

“He has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”
2 Timothy 1:9

Grace into His presence
Through the gift of God’s Son Jesus, we receive the gift of coming into the presence of God. We can come before “God Most High, God Almighty” in the grace that Jesus gives us.

  • “But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah.” Ephesians 2:13
  • “In Him (Jesus) and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” Ephesians 3:12
  • “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” Romans 5:1-2

Not only are we given the gift of coming into His presence, but His presence actually abides in us. What a gift! God allows us to share in His divine nature. This is a mind blowing truth.

  • “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
    2 Peter 1:3-4
  • “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:38-39

The Gift of Peace
Jesus has come to give us peace; peace within our hearts; peace within our relationships with others and peace between us and God.

  • “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take courage; I have overcome the world!” John 16:33
  • “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…” Romans 5:1
  • “God was pleased to have all of himself live in Christ. God was also pleased to bring everything on earth and in heaven back to himself through Christ. He did this by making peace through Christ’s blood sacrificed on the cross. Once you were separated from God. The evil things you did showed your hostile attitude. But now Christ has brought you back to God by dying in his physical body. He did this so that you could come into God’s presence without sin, fault, or blame.” Col.1:19-22

The Gift of Joy
Most people pursue happiness. Who does not want to be happy? Even the Declaration of Independence of the United States claims that the pursuit of happiness is an unalienable right of every human being.

God gives us more that circumstantial happiness, He provides a true deep, abiding joy. This joy remains, even when there are difficulties in our life. This joy is given to us, a gift through Jesus.

  • “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:10-12
  • “Although you’ve never seen Him, you love Him. Even though you don’t see Him now, you trust Him and so rejoice with a glorious joy that is too much for words. You are receiving the goal of your faith: your salvation.” 1 Peter 1:8-9

Gifts to Treasure
There are many gifts given to us from God. You can probably name some right now. Over this holiday season take some time out and meditate on the gifts that God has given us in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Take time to give God due thanks and praise for the good gifts He has given you, in much the same way you would thank your friend or relative for that special gift they gave you.

After the holidays, as you move into the new year, establish the habit of reading the Word of God daily. As you read look for the treasures God has given you.

God in The Nothing Times

One evening in a woman’s Bible study group we talked about the “nothing times”. It started when a young woman said something like this, “I moved here about five years ago. I had a baby who turned out to have serious life threatening health issues. My whole life has changed.  My husband and I used to be respected leaders in my church. I was a professional in the field of law and had a respected job. But now I am nothing. No one knows who I am or what I was.”  So we talked about those times in our life when we feel as if we are worth nothing, and we are doing nothing.

“Nothing  times,” such as experiencing a major health problem that alters our life style; losing our job and title; experiencing a major financial loss; marital problems; problems with children, and countless difficulties and life changes, can reveal what our identity and life is based on.

The truth is in order to make it through these times we need to have a value beyond ourselves, our position, looks and what we can do or achieve. Who we are needs to be defined by something greater than our appearance, education, position, achievements, health or success in life.

Great Men and Nothing Times
The Bible tells stories of men and women who experienced “nothing times.” Nothing times or desert times, are those times when everything we associated with who we are and what we do that gives meaning to our lives is stripped away. We may feel like a no body, a nothing, a non-contributor, but it is in those times we can learn whose we really are and how the truth we learn can change our life.

We could study the “nothing times” of Abraham, Sarah, Joseph, David, Elijah, Elisha, Mary, Paul and others, but today let’s look briefly at Moses.

Moses’ Nothing Time
Moses was a prince of Egypt but was demoted to a shepherd in the desert (Exodus 2:11-25).  Truly this must have seemed like a “nothing time” to Moses. After all, Moses had been educated in the pharaoh’s courts, trained as a soldier in the Egyptian army, entrusted with leadership and responsibility, experienced wealth, luxury and privilege. Moses was in running to be the next ruler of Egypt.

What a come down it must have been for Moses when he found himself a fugitive running from Egyptian officials and then tending sheep in a desert. Yet, God used this time when Moses probably felt like a “nobody,” who was doing nothing of importance, to teach Moses how to live in relationship with God, and what his true identity and purpose is.

This “nothing time” is referred to as Moses’ desert experience. During this time, Moses learned to be humble before God. Moses fell in love with God during this time and became deeply bonded to God. It was because of this humility and bond that God was able to use Moses in such a powerful way. Even though Moses was well educated and powerful within himself, God worked through Moses’ humility and Godly devotion more than any of Moses’ previous education and training.

A key for Moses was that he did not hold unto his past position, or continue to define himself as a privileged son of Egypt, but rather he opened himself to learn of God and to do God’s will, God’s way. God used Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt and to bring Israel into a covenant relationship with God.

The Glory Times
As we read through Exodus, we see what a beautiful and close relationship Moses developed with God through his nothing time, as well as time when he led God’s people through their wilderness. Through humility and faith, Moses developed an intimate relationship with God so much so that Moses had the faith to ask God to see His glory, and God did as Moses requested in Ex. 33:18-23

“Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the Lord said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.”.

Something Out of “My Nothing”
As we read through the Bible, we can see many other people who had those “nothing times.” Some, such as King Saul, responded in pride and fear, and as a result were unable to be used by God. Others responded in faith.  In conclusion, as we reflect on Moses we see some of the keys to surviving and growing in the “nothing” or desert times:

  • relinquish your hold on your  self-made identity, value and purpose
  • define yourself by your relationship with God
  • be humble and open yourself to God’s working; allow Him to show you what you need to know about yourself and Him
  • trust that God is in control, He sees your distress and is working in and for you behind the scenes.

I believe that all of the seemingly nothing times in our life can bring us closer to God and help us see Him in a way that we may have never seen Him before. The question is:
“Are you willing to look to God during the “nothing” times?”

A Verse for Thought
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10

Playing Ball With God

According to statistics listed by ESPN, Johnny Bench was the all-time best catcher in the history of MLB, and according to Bleacher Report, Roy Karkovice was the best all time defensive catcher in the history of MLB. I am sure there are those who would debate this. However, I want to go on record as saying I have found the best “catcher” of all, both defensive and offensive, His name is Jehovah, the God of heaven and earth.

Play Ball!
This morning I played ball with God. Yes, I did. I was the pitcher, He the catcher. This may sound crazy, but God invites us to do this.

1 Peter 5:7 says “Cast your anxieties on Him because He cares for you.” The word “cast” in New Testament Greek means throw.  So basically it is saying, “Throw your anxieties on God because He cares for you.”

Where did Peter get that idea? Most probably he heard it as he sat in the synagogue listening to the Hebrew scriptures.

David used this expression and set up this concept of throwing things to God in  Psalm 55:22. He writes: Cast your burdens on the Lord, He will sustain you…”

The lexicon provides a detailed description of this Hebrew word, “cast’” defining it with several synonyms: hurl, fling, and throw. Each word draws out a different nuance of meaning.

Hurl implies a forceful throw, something with strength and determination behind it. Fling implies a quick, “I have to get help with this” toss. A “throw” may be done with more deliberation and focus.

Whatever way you throw your concerns, fears and troubles onto God, He is there to catch them. In fact He welcomes us to “cast,” and He is waiting to catch.

Trust the Catcher
Knowing that God invites me, even urges me to throw my cares on Him reassures me and gives me peace amid the questions, and troubles of my life. I know I can rely on God for help.

I need to know that there is someone more powerful and faithful than myself, or even than my best confidante.  Some of the times I need to remember this truth are when I am struggling in a relationship; dealing with things I see as unfair; overcoming a weakness; trying to grow in my faith; or, when I am challenged by situations or people that seem impossible.

I have found that when I look in God’s word for truths about the character of God, I am building  a foundation for my faith.  I more readily see God as the faithful Catcher. He can field any hard ball we throw at Him or unto Him.

There are truths about God in His Word that help me to trust that He will not only catch what I hurl unto Him, but that He will work with it. Here are a few truths about our Perfect Catcher that make me feel safe and stir my heart to trust Him.

God is Faithful in His Love
One of these truths is found in James 1:17.
“That every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights. Who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17

This verse states that God is good and as a result good things come to us from Him. It also states that God does not change. In other words He has had, and always has, good intentions towards me and He will not change His intent.

Ephesians 1: 4-5 makes this truth in James 1 very clear: “For He chose us in Him (Jesus) before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—.”

Before the foundation of the world, God looked down through time and He saw that I was not always going to trust Him, obey Him, or choose to do what was right. He saw times when I would be blind, ignorant, arrogant, and forge ahead in my own way and dishonor Him. Yet, even before all this came to be He planned to bring me close to Him, into His family, through His Son Jesus. To top it all off, it was His good pleasure to do this.

The cross was not an instrument of pleasure, yet it was God’s pleasure to give up His Son to the cross so I could be in “God’s good graces,” so to speak.

God Is Trust Worthy
I think of these truths and I know that God is faithful in His love and good intent towards me. When I feel overwhelmed by troubles in my life, it is not always my first response to cast my troubles on Him and trust that He will sustain me.

Sometimes my mind and heart are slow to do this. I have to push through my feelings and make a deliberate effort to recall truths like the one stated in Ephesians 1:4-5,  and then choose to believe it. Then, I can hurl my cares on Him with confident expectation of His care.

Studying the meaning of a small word like “cast;” seeing its history in the Old Testament through to the New Testament enriches my understanding of God and increases my faith. God relishes a relationship with us.

There are many other passages in God’s Word that show Him reaching out to us. I urge you to search out these passages and be encouraged by God’s good intent towards you.

Language of Prayer

Prayer Speak
When I read through the Psalms, I see what I would call a “language of prayer” interlaced through these scriptures. It is a language that is open, vulnerable, reverent and, at times, desperate.

It is a language that reveals truths about God’s character, His interaction with man and man’s interaction with God. For example, in Psalm 46:1, the psalmist shows us that he has found God to be a refuge and a present help in time of trouble. These descriptions of interactions between God and man, and the actual prayers that are detailed in the psalms help me in several ways.

First, it increases my understanding of God and His intentions towards me. Sometimes, during the problems of life, I mistrust God’s good intentions towards me. I tend to question His love for and care of me. At times, I have wondered if God had forgotten about me, or if He was mad at me. When I read how the psalmists felt and saw God, and how God interacted with them, I can see more clearly the truth about God and His nature, rather than be blinded by my feelings or circumstances.

That in turn increases my ability to trust God, because I can see Him for who He is, and more readily believe His good intention for me even if I am not “feeling it.” Being reminded of these truths about God encourages me to choose to trust the goodness of God. The third result is a deepening of my ability to express my praise, thankfulness and love for God. When I am trusting God’s goodness and care, it opens my heart to thank God.

Some of these actions of God are listed below. I encourage you to read them with care and thought, and ask yourself, “Is this how I see God in my life?”  If not, then take some time to pray and ask God to help you to see Him in these ways.

The God of the Psalmists and the Prophets Is Our God Too!
We speak to the same God that the psalmists, prophets and patriarchs spoke to, and we have a relationship with this same God. Perhaps you read these scriptures in the Old Testament and think that such interactions were from of old and not for me today. Yet God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow (Hebrews 1:12 and 13:8). God’s character and nature are unchanging.

In Jeremiah 23:23, the prophet in chastising Israel quotes God as referring to Himself as “the God who is near.”
“Am I a God who is near, declares the Lord, and not a God who is far off?”

In context, God is telling the people that He is near to them, but also He knows them when they have distanced themselves from God, and so to speak are hiding out from Him.  The word for “near” is “karove” and it implies a nearness in time, in place and in personal relationship.  Other words for near in this context are: close at hand; neighbor; next to and approachable.

We worship the same God who defined Himself as the God who is near. Read about how the Psalmists describe God’s closeness and intimacy with His people. Let these words encourage you about how God interacts with you today. Again, I ask you to ask yourself these questions: Is this how I see God? Is this how I interact with Him?

Ps. 3:3– God is our protector. God is a shield and the One who lifts us up.
“But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.”

Ps, 4:7 –. God is the source of joy.
“You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”

Ps, 56:8 – God knows our sadness and hurt.
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.”

Ps. 9:12b – God does not ignore us, no matter how we are feeling about Him, or our circumstances.
“He does not ignore the cries of the afflicted…”

Ps. 38:3 – God answers our prayers to Him and He encourages our faint and weary hearts.
“When I called, You answered me; You greatly emboldened me.”

Ps.11:4– God is Sovereign. God is in control, even when things in our life or the world around us are out of control.
“But the Lord is still in His holy temple; He still rules from heaven.
He closely watches everything that happens here on earth.” (TLB)

Ps. 42:8– God is constant. He is always acting on our behalf.
“By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me.”

These are just a few examples of truths we can learn from the language of prayer and praise found in the book of Psalms. I encourage you to read through the psalms to find your own expressions of how God interacts with us.