Obedience, Sanctification, Submission, Surrender, Trust, Uncategorized, Victory

Do Not, But Be

be-transformed

Romans 12:2

Obedience.  It’s what loving parents teach their children, to be obedient for their own good. In fact, we tell our children what to do and what not to do ALL THE TIME because children, left to their own devices, are foolish.  Likewise, in Romans 12:2 our Heavenly Father gives us two imperatives; Do not, but be.

The first command, “Do not be conformed to this world,” is a powerful statement.  It implies danger and choice.  I remember when, as a toddler, my youngest son, Ryan,  was trying to see what was on top of the stove while I was cooking.  “Don’t touch the stove,” I warned,  “It’s hot.”  But, instead of backing away he plopped his hand on top of the stove and burned himself.  I didn’t tell him he would get hurt but I did tell him not to touch the stove.  Yes, his disobedience led to pain but he never did it again.  Ryan tells us today that he knew right from wrong growing up.  “You were good parents,” he told us.   “I chose to do things I knew were wrong at times because I wanted to do them.”

Isn’t that like all of us?  We are not ignorant of God’s Word, we just want to do what we want to do regardless of the consequences.  So, when God says, “do not be conformed to this world,” what does that mean?  What is it that we are not supposed to do?  Well, I believe the answer is in a previous chapter of Romans.  Romans 1 lays out a blueprint for what not to do as a child of God.  It’s a “how to” manual for rejecting God, the One who loves you so much that He sent His Son to die for you.   It says, basically, don’t do whatever you want to do, acting like God doesn’t exist, or if He does He isn’t Holy or loving or even The Righteous Judge.  Don’t be deceived, don’t be sexually immoral, a drunkard, etc. But more importantly, don’t turn your back on God and worship the created (yourself or anything else) rather than the Creator.  In short, don’t try to be satisfied with anything other than Me.

The second imperative in Romans 12:2, “but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,”  is mysterious until you dig into the statement.  “But be transformed” means  “to change into another form, to transform, to transfigure,” from the Greek word metamorphoō (Strong’s G3339).  Think butterfly.  How are we to change into another form?  By the renewing of our minds!  This is our sanctifying cocoon.  Instead of being someone who is pulled toward the world, wants our own way no matter what the consequences, desires to be fulfilled at the expense of other people, indulgent and disobedient to God,  we can be transformed into an other-centered person who loves God and is compelled by His great love to a life of obedience, denying fleshly desires, and following Him even when we don’t fully understand.

This happens when we allow ourselves to be exposed to God’s promises and choose to believe Him over our impulses and feelings.  Even though, as Christians, we are no longer caterpillars we can choose to stay in the cocoon even after God has given us wings.  Or, we can choose to press in and allow God to do the painful work of sanctification in order that we may burst out by faith, trusting that He has given us new life and the ability to “fly” by His power.  We no longer have to let the world pull us down, keeping us grounded in defeat.   We can live in the reality of our new life in christ.  The story of the Ugly Duckling is a perfect illustration.  In the end the “duck” realizes he is a swan.  He has been a swan.  He belongs to a beautiful family of swans and no longer has to try to be a duck or feel ashamed that he is not accepted by the ducks because he doesn’t belong to the duck family anymore.  He is something new altogether.  So are you if you have received the gift God has given us in Jesus.

 

Why do we still choose to walk around on our little caterpillar legs eating milkweed when we have wings and can drink the nectar of fruits and flowers?   God has given us His Word so we can live in freedom today.  Not in Heaven only but right now.   I can hear God saying, “I love you so much I chose to take all the pain and suffering of disobedience.  I want you to live in reality.  I want you to fly and glorify Me as the sunlight bounces off your wings.”  You are free if you have believed that God exists and Jesus has died for your sins and rose again from the dead, proving He is the Son of God.  If you don’t believe it then you are thinking like the world thinks and God is calling you to renew your mind with His Word.  Sit at His feet.  Meditate on His promises.  Read the Gospels, shedding tears of joy because, “If the Son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed!”  John 8:36

Commitment, Covenant, Faith, Hope, Idolatry, Submission, Surrender, Uncategorized

In Christ Alone

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. Where does my help come from?  My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth.”  Psalm 121:1-2

Arriving at the car rental queue at the Baltimore airport we frowned at the long line but patiently waited the forty-five minutes it took to get to the counter. (I should rightly say my husband, Marty, waited patiently while I sat in a comfy seat watching the luggage.) Understandably tired and prickly, the agent checked us in and ten minutes later we were on the freeway driving to our hotel, excited for the fun few days ahead. However, after just a few miles, the rental car rumbled and lost power.  Surprised by the strange noise and loss of acceleration Marty heeded the warning on the dashboard imploring us to “See Owner’s Manual” and pulled the car over into the breakdown lane. Unfortunately, there was no owner’s manual in the glove compartment.

“The transmission slipped,” Marty said, puzzled as he turned off the motor.  After a few minutes he started the car again and took off. This time it seemed to drive okay and we made it to our hotel. Sadly, the next day the same thing happened on our way to breakfast. Because of this, we arranged to have the vehicle exchanged, which we knew would be time-consuming, inconvenient but necessary.  The wonderful thing is neither of us let it steal our joy. There was peace “like a river” because we had our eyes set on the prize. We were there to enjoy watching our son play baseball.  And, because the hotel was next to the ball field, there was no disappointment when the car didn’t work properly because it had no bearing on our ability to enjoy the games. Also, we didn’t care that the car was a hassle because we weren’t focused on the car!  We ended up having a wonderful trip and made it back to the airport without a hitch or rumble.

In the same way, God tells us to focus on the prize (Christ Himself forevermore) and not on our circumstances. We will all eventually arrive at our final destination with joy if we keep our eyes on Jesus. Unless, of course, He isn’t your prize. What are you living for? What do you hope for your future?  Are you trusting God, hoping in Christ alone, or are your eyes stuck on what is lacking? If your hope is in a changed spouse, good health, a new house, perfectly behaved children or a larger paycheck instead of Christ Himself then you are not placing your Hope in Christ alone. You are metaphorically focused on the rental car that doesn’t work and the hassle you are forced to go through because of it, never mind that it’s the very vehicle that God chose to use to get you to the final destination.

The song In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty begins with a bold statement describing our firm foundation and the peace we have in Christ when He is our rock.

“In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength, my song; this Cornerstone, this solid Ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.  What heights of love, what depths of peace,  when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!  My Comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand.”  

Looking up we see our eternal future and nothing this side of heaven can steal our joy.   In contrast, if my focus is, for example, on my child’s success or failure and how it may reflect on me then my hope is on unstable ground. In this case my song would be more like this;

“In my child alone my hope is found,  He is my light, my strength, my song;  this little me, gives identity, changing with every up and down.  What heights of pride, what depths of shame, when fear and striving never cease! My tormentors, my all in all, here in insecurity I stand.”

This is not the kind of theme song I want to define the majority of my life. I pray for God’s holy hand to take hold of my chin and lift it to heaven when I am tempted to linger on anything other than Christ alone. Thank God for graciously giving us warning lights on the dashboard of our hearts and for His perfect Owner’s Manual!

“Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near.  Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.  “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  Isaiah 55:6-8

Uncategorized

Worried and Bothered

“Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

Whenever we plan an event at our house my default is “worried and bothered.”  On these occasions I can identify with Martha, although, on an ordinary day I am right there with Mary at Jesus’ feet as the dishes pile up in the sink.  But, like Martha,  I too struggle with feeling overwhelmed, abandoned and unloved!  I too accuse God of not caring and tell Him what to do!  However, the reality of Jesus’ love for Martha, as well as for you and me, is that it is endless and unconditional. He wants us to sit at His feet and trust Him for everything because He really does care for you and for me.  This is demonstrated in His words, “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”  He’s not excluding or rejecting Martha but inviting her to join them!

Similarly, in Exodus 16 (the first account of God providing manna and quail for the Israelites in the desert) the Israelites also complained and told God what to do.  Even after witnessing God’s gracious provision they still didn’t believe Him.  Some even decided to do it their own way, gathering more manna than they needed for the day, and it “bred worms and became foul.”  Instead of trusting that God cared enough to provide for them the next day they lived by sight and ended up with rot. So too, when I refuse to live by faith the worms of fear and discontent are apparent.

Even now as I sit here writing I am distracted by the reality of selling our home.  I want to know what tomorrow brings instead of trusting that God cares for me and resting in His plan. Simply put, it is unbelief for the here and now.  In the same way a puppy automatically starts paddling when held over water (even though it’s being held securely) all of us tend to panic and start “paddling” when circumstances are out of our control.   In short, we fail to trust that God will keep holding on and tend to anticipate the worst when we choose to believe lies.  Can you hear the enemy whispering, “God doesn’t really care for you,” even though His Word says He does?

So, how do you and I live by faith and not by sight?  We choose to believe God, taking Him at His WORD and purpose to reject the lies.  Yes, living in the unseen reality means we need to fill our minds with God’s truth and believe Him even if it doesn’t make sense and especially when it goes against our natural inclinations. That is called faith.  As Martha focused on her circumstances she became worried and overwhelmed just like we do.  However, Jesus invited her into the unseen reality of a free spiritual life in Christ which is void of “have to’s” and full of “get to’s.”  We have the privilege of sitting at Jesus’ feet when we don’t have time and He miraculously stretches the minutes.  We get to tithe when it doesn’t make sense and He miraculously stretches the dollar.  We are free to drink His living water and He miraculously bears fruit in our lives.  His burden is light because He is outside of time and circumstance.   God tells us to “take My yoke upon you and I will give you rest.”  When I resist this I identify with Martha, the Israelites and also with Peter who heard God say, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5b

Uncategorized

Pliable People

“Like clay in the hands of a potter so are you in My hands.” Joel 18:6

Playing with Play-Do was a “Yay!” activity in our house when my kids were little.  We had all kinds of tools, forms and presses to make things with the colorful putty.  When we were done (yes, I mean we) the Picasso-esque artifacts were set on a shelf but it didn’t take long for them to harden, crack and eventually fall apart.

I imagine we are like that too.  God’s hands are pressing and molding us, sometimes adding and other times taking away.  All the while He is delighted in His creation and, as long as we remain pliable, He is able to shape us as He wills.  However, if we withdraw from Him, become hard or bitter, or even apathetic, we will not be workable.  No change can occur without first adding water.

In John 4:14 water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, “…the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” As a believer we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and cannot be unsealed.  However, we can quench and grieve the Holy Spirit and have dry, powerless lives.  Ephesians 4:30-31 says, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.”

Therefore, God will continue molding us into the likeness of His Son.  Our part is to remain pliable. Abiding in Christ, sitting at His feet, meditating on His love and forgiveness and prayerfully reading His Word are all ways to remain soft-hearted.  Another is confession.  When Jesus washed Peter’s feet He said, “Unless I do this you can have no part in Me.” John 13:8b.  This intimate exchange is a picture of confession.  We give Jesus the dirt that clings to our feet because we are living in this fallen world.  He gladly takes our sin upon Himself and makes us clean.  After Jesus finished washing the disciples feet He told them that they were (we are) to do this for one another.  Hence, James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”  Here the “Confess your sins to one another” is born.  This does not mean that we have to confess our sins to another person to be forgiven.  We are already forgiven!  Rather, that we reflect Christ in the lives of our brothers and sisters by showing unconditional love and forgiveness as we share our burdens and sin with each other by living out this command.  This is humble submission.  This is being pliable and soft, teachable and available for His Kingdom and for His glory.

Unfortunately, oftentimes we are hesitant to confess our sins to another believer.  We are compelled to hide our defects and pretend to have it all together when we are actually dying inside.  We were not meant to walk alone.  We were meant to be shaped by God through relationship. His Holy Spirit is the press Who shapes us through relationships that chisel off the rough edges.  We are being sanctified, made perfect for His Kingdom and I can’t wait to go home.

Finally, 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  May we be pliable in the hands of a loving God and choose to be used by Him to comfort others with the Good News of forgiveness so they too can drink deeply of the Living Water and be forever changed.