God Works with Broken Spirits

Psalm 32, 51, 86 & 122

psalm 51 10 niv sgl

Have you ever done something and lacked the words to express everything to God? Saying, “God, forgive me” seems to fall short of what my sin deserves and how I feel about what I have done. If any of you have grown up in a church that was severely focused on obedience but didn’t give a full picture of who God was then you probably have felt this way, too.

Today as I was reading over Ps. 51, which is one of my favorite Psalms, I was conflicted about what I really wanted to write. What I really wanted to write about was Ps. 51.17 and correlate that back to Matthew 5.3. I actually wrote a devotion on Matthew 5.3 earlier this year and didn’t want to just duplicate the material. So today I am going to look at this Psalm in a new way.

This Psalm at its heart is a psalm of complete repentance. It expresses David’s emotion right after being confronted on his sin with Bathsheba. David’s heart is over flowing with that godly grief while in the moment of confrontation and writing his prayer to God he may have laid out a model for us to use in our own repentance. I want to break the Psalm down in sections and look at it in parts.

I think verse 1-2 provide a good preamble for what David is going to prayer for. I don’t think there is real reason to dive too deep into it.

Verse 3-6 is our first real section of the Psalm. Until recently when I looked at this section I thought lines seemed unconnected and kind of thrown together. I have changed my view on this now. I now know that all of these verses are looking to serve one purpose. In verse 3 David confesses of his sin and acknowledges that his sin is before him. Verse 4 is extremely interesting setting aside the “against you and you only” I think that this verse is referring back to 2 Samuel 12.9. David is acknowledging, according to God’s response through Nathan, that he did evil in God’s sight. By acknowledging that what God says is true is an act of obedience and submitting to God’s truth. David in line 3 and 4 says that he is admitting his fault in order to acknowledge the judgements of God as righteous and true. Verse 5 David admits that he has a deep sinfulness rooted inside him from his mother’s womb. Verse 6 is where we have the truth shine through. David says that God delights in truth in the inner being and he teaches him wisdom in his secret heart.  This is a strange statement in context at first glance. David starts out this section with confession and ends it with God delighting in truth. What is confession at its root? It’s simply telling the truth. David is acknowledging throughout this whole section his sin before God and confessing God’s truth to him. He is acknowledging God’s judgements are true and the full depth of his sin. The drive of this section is confession. We can’t ignore this last line either. God teaches him wisdom in his secret heart. This sounds almost exactly like the conviction of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit made David fully aware of his sin before God. So, to close this section out verses 3-6 are entirely about confession.

The next section comprises verses 7-12. They articulate exactly what I want God to do to my heart. Verse 7 in summation is, “God cleanse me, wash away my sin”. In verse 8 he is asking God to bring joy back into his heart. His sins had just drained the joy from him. In verse 9 he is asking God to overlook his sins and remove his iniquities. In verse 10 David asks God to create in him a clean heart and to put a steadfast spirit within him. In verse 11 David is asking God to not cast him away from his presence and not remove the Holy Spirit from him. In verse 12 David asks God to restore the joy he once found in how God saved him and help him have a willing spirit. I think you probably get the point but in every one of these verses David is petitioning or asking God to help or cleanse him from his sin.

I want to really delve into each one of these verses in the section 13-17 but I don’t want to wear out your attention here. So, I am just going to give away my point. In each one of these verses David is telling God his response. In each one of these verses David is ascribing an action or a change that David is making in his heart. True repentance always comes with with a new set of actions or a change in heart.

To pull all these together, David started out in verses 3-6 with a pure confession and a confession of God’s truth in the world. In verse 7-12 David petitions God to cleanse and purify him, to replace his heart, uphold him, give him a right spirit and finally to restore his joy. In verses 13-17 David tells God what he is going to do in response. David says he will teach transgressors God’s ways, his tongue will sing aloud of God’s righteousness, his mouth will declare God’s praise and finally give God the true sacrifice which is a broken or contrite spirit. This model of confession, petition of cleansing, and response is a great example for us. It firstly acknowledges our sin, then asks God to cleanse us and then gives God the response to our sin. This model allows us to do what we can do and allows God to do what ultimately only he can do. It is our responsibility to acknowledge our sin but ultimately, we can’t cleanse ourselves or restore our joy. Those things are dependent on God and David in this section of scripture acknowledges that fact. David doesn’t just stop his life, though. He acknowledges that he can still praise God and he can still offer up the proper sacrifice of a broken spirit through which God can work.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+32%2C+51%2C+86%2C+122&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be 2 Samuel 13-15 as we progress on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

In God’s Big Hands

2 Samuel 10, 1Chronicles 19 & Psalm 20

2 Samuel 10 12 NRSV sgl

Have you ever felt a little weird asking God to heal someone who is sick? I know I totally have. Inside my brain I feel this want to pray that God would heal the person but I also feel this tension between wanting God’s will to be done and wanting my own specific will to happen. For the record I absolutely think that we should be praying for the sick. I think that in some ways the tension exists because we want what we want and we all want this world to be as pleasurable as possible for everyone. While I think it is a little short sighted, it makes perfect sense. We don’t want to see our loved ones in pain, so we pray that God would bless them.

On the other hand, I do believe that the will of God will be accomplished eventually in this world. I also believe that the will of God is absolutely the best solution for each situation. Babies still die and sometimes younger people die too early. They don’t get to grow old and experience life through a number of years. This leads me to believe that there may be a creature out there in this world who is in opposition to God. So the question sort of remains do we pray that people will be healed or do we just pray that God’s will would be done in this situation. I believe that our prayers can be effective through God’s actions if they are God’s will. I think above all else in the realm of prayer my goal is to praise the Lord for all he has done and to try to pray according to his will.

In the reading today in 2 Samuel 10 we have this super weird story with half shaven beards and half naked men. Kind of crazy. The retaliation of this is where I want to focus though. So here the Ammonites had hired the Syrians and the king of Macaah and his men and the king of Tob and his men. This is looking to be a pretty intense battle. It’s sort of looking like everyone versus Israel in this scene. Now the Ammonites hired 33,000 soldiers and in addition you can throw in there all the men that the Ammonites had together. I can almost guarantee you that this was a formidable force against the army that Joab had.

Now this situation is kind of tricky because not only are they facing an army  that is larger than them but that army is also facing them on both sides. This is what is known as a flank and it’s a well used military strategy. Joab, the commander of Israel’s army, knows this and he knows that the odds are not in his favor at the current moment. He is well aware that he is already in trouble and the battle hasn’t even begun yet. Joab does the best with what he’s got and makes a plan to fight the battle. He divides his two forces and tells them we will help each other where we need it and after that Joab gives an awesome pep talk.

We don’t hear a lot about Joab’s life. We mostly hear about his military conquests but here we get a little glimpse into his spiritual life. In verse 12 he says, “Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.” Love this motivational speech. He says be of good courage, which in my head and maybe some of Joab’s men immediately kicks me back to Joshua where Israel was winning every battle set before them. Then he says do for the fam, or for the family, and for the cities of our God. He acknowledges that they are God’s cities, Amen, right?!

The next subphrase though I want to hone in on a little bit. He asks that the Lord may do what seems good to him. That is nuts. He has all these men under him, he is literally responsible for all their lives. That is how leadership works. No begging and pleading for mercy and asking for blessings on his men and his nation. All he is asking is the Lord to do what seems good to him. He must have really believed that he deserved good to be done with him or he must have decided that God deserves to have what is good done in his eyes. He believed in putting it in God’s hands. He may have even believed and had confidence that God would want to do good to him. Not because of his actions surely, but because of God’s nature.

I think this phrase was spoken in humility and he was allowing his life and the lives of his men to be put in God’s hands. Of course all our lives are in God’s and the things that go on in our lives are still in God’s hands but Joab was crazy enough to voluntarily submit and acknowledge it. That’s the best type of crazy. I think this was the same attitude Jesus had in the garden of Gethsemane.

I think what is actually going on is these people are volunteering their sense of control over their lives. They are submitting to God and telling him you do what you think is good to you. This is the point of surrender in our lives that I believe God is continuously working us towards – an emptiness of our own and fullness of things of God. It is ushering us towards the freedom that we yield control over our lives to God.

So let’s give to God what is his and pray that he would do what is good to Him in our lives.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+10%2C+1Chronicles+19%2C+Psalm+20&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalms 65-67 & 69-70 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Who You Want to Be

Psalm 101

Psalm 101 2a

Are you who you want to be?

Almost no one jumps up at this question and says I am exactly who I want to be. Maybe we won’t ever become who we want to be. Our view may be too grandiose to actualize. We all have strengths, weaknesses and limitations which is perfectly fine. I have accepted that I will never have a voice like any of the singers from Casting Crowns. Haha. I have identified areas of my life where I am semi successful and try to work on those areas. This doesn’t mean I don’t work on my weakness it just means that I know the areas that I am most able to serve others in and hone those skills in order to serve God and those around me better.

With all that being said I am still not who I want to be in the picture-perfect sense.

Actually, before we move forward, I want you to write down exactly who you want to be and maybe what you think you are missing to become that person in 100 words or less. Sometimes it’s helpful to write down our goals.  Envisioning them can make them more concrete and help to actualize them. No longer are they just things or ideas they have an actual physical existence now.

Second question: Do you think you are on the road to become who you want to be?

Does your life reflect that you are taking steps daily in that direction and you are pushing yourself to become that person? Are you doing that hard work in your life? Or do you shrink back to what is comfortable?

These are problems that all of us face and today we are going to look at some of these.

Ps. 101 is going to be the focus today.

Verse 1 praised God for all that he does through his steadfast love and faithfulness. I like how David doesn’t stop there. He follows the praise and gratitude with an action step by saying “to you Lord I will make music.” I wish that I would do that more often—turn the gratitude in my heart into an action step to worship and praise God.

David starts out verse 2 by saying “I will ponder the way that is blameless.” This isn’t the first time anyone will hear this but sometimes we need reminders. What you think about will be what is manifest in your life. If you are continually allowing sinful things to have space and time in your mind, you probably won’t be able to stay pure and live a holy life. There are scientific studies that show if you think about something that you are grateful for, you will be more content. The thoughts you allow in your mind will be the rudder that steers the ship of your life.

David asks God when will God come to him. It shows us where David’s heart is. It shows us that the desire of his heart is to be in God’s presence.

This next line is something I want to work through in more detail. “I will walk in the integrity of my heart within my house.” A definition of integrity that I think is applicable for this verse is the quality or state of being complete or undivided. Integrity is being the same person even when no one is watching. I don’t think any of us want to think that we display a “for show” version of ourselves but I think most of us do. Do you think that you are whole in what you think is right in your heart and do in your actions? This is something I really want to be a part of my life.

For a long time, I have known that God is the only place that I can truly be satisfied. I have found this to be an extremely prominent theme in scripture. Here are seven Psalm 107.9, Isaiah 58.11, Jeremiah 31.25, Psalm 91.16, Isaiah 55.2, Mark 15.15, Psalm 132.15. Also, via google there is a page that has 54 verses regarding satisfaction in God. So, it’s kind of a big deal. I know that God is the only one in whom I can find contentment, satisfaction, peace, and fulfillment. I know this and yet I let myself believe the lie that other things may satisfy.  In this way I am not walking in the integrity of my heart.

There is a chasm between what I believe to be true and what I do.

I started out the devotion asking you who you wanted to be. I think that person would be the one who walks in the integrity of your heart.

I can offer you a little insight if you are younger and tell you that you may not ever be the person you want to be but I will tell you that you should be content with making progress and putting in the effort to walk in the integrity of heart.

I hope that you will join me in reorienting your life or continue the process of walking in the integrity of your heart and becoming who you want to be and who God has called you to be.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+89%2C+96%2C+100%2C+101%2C+105%2C+132&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be back to the life of David – 2 Samuel 7 & 1 Chronicles 17 – as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

For Others not For Yourself

2 Samuel 5:11-6:23; 2 Chronicles 13-16

2 Samuel 5 12a NIV

 

Have you ever been in class, at home or with your friends and you start to get the impression that the people around you don’t necessarily have your best interests in mind? In fact, I think one of the most heartbreaking things in life is that moment that you start to realize that you have to look out for your interests. You start to realize that people will talk behind your back, they will say nasty things about you, they may try to take advantage of you. It’s truly heartbreaking for me to see someone have their trust betrayed.

The reason why this is heartbreaking for me is it leads people to have a cynical view of the world. This view can be seen all over the world. People looking out for themselves instead of caring for those around them. In some ways, this is a natural behavior for humans. Inside all of us there is this innate desire toward self-preservation. This isn’t entirely a learned behavior. I can see this in my 2 and half year-old nephew as he interacts with his 10-month-old sister. He doesn’t want to share his toys with her. When she is holding one of his toys his desire is to take the toy away from her. Even if he isn’t playing with that toy or even wanted it before she started to play with it. As a parent or adult, one of the things you are supposed to teach your child is how to share or how to look out for the interests of others. Putting others wants and needs above your own is unnatural but that is the way that love works.

One of our passages for the day is 2 Samuel 5.11-6.23 but as I began to read this passage it was the second verse that struck a chord with me. I encourage you to read the whole passage; it really is a great passage. That being said I really want to just hone in on this verse today and get all we can from it.

5:12 “And David knew that the LORD had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.”

To give you a little backstory David at this point had overcome Saul and was no longer a “criminal” on the run. God had established him as king of Israel through all the trials that he had to overcome and endure through. This was a long time coming for David but God finally gave him the victory.

The first statement gives us an indication of David’s heart when becoming king. David knew and gave the credit to God for when he assumed the throne. He didn’t try to say it was because of all he endured that he was now the king of Israel. He gave the credit back to the one who actually put him there. Even then as the king of Israel David was humble before God.

The next line though is really what I want to hone in on. David knew that God had exalted his kingdom for the sake of the people of Israel. God put David on the throne because God and David loved God’s chosen people, Israel. David was given the responsibility of the kingdom, not for his sake, or for his own self-interest, David was climbing the ladder from shepherd to harpist to giant slayer to mighty warrior to king but for God’s and his people. He was seeking the people’s best interest and this is where God put him. God put him there because he knew he cared for his people and that he would seek God and seek the people’s interest above his own.

David had unlearned that natural tendency towards self-interest and preservation and learned to put other’s interest, safety and good above his own. He put on the heart of a servant. The world and our own minds have taught something that may be the way that this world works but it isn’t the way that God works. He works through people who have laid themselves aside and serve and put others ahead of themselves.

The fascinating thing about David in this is he didn’t have Jesus telling him to love others as he had loved them. David just had a heart for people and I don’t think this was something special because of who David was. I think David had this because of his relationship with his heavenly father.

Here is my exhortation for us today—go serve people. Go out there and lay aside your own self-interest and seek someone else’s good. Seek the good of those around you. In the same way that David wasn’t given the kingdom for his own good, the things that we are given whether it’s our money, time, attention, or work—what has been given to us is meant to serve those around us. Whether we acknowledge it all the time, or not, ALL that we have, including this very day, has been given to us by God. So, let’s lay ourselves down to serve those around us.

Daniel Wall

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2+Samuel+5%3A11-6%3A23%3B+1+Chronicles+13-16&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Psalm 1-2,15, 22-24, 47,68 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Be the Good in the Crazy

ruth 2 12

Ruth 1:1 “In the days when the judges ruled…”

If you’re reading along with this Bible plan and read yesterday’s blog, you might expect to read more about people “doing as he/she saw fit” as you read the introduction to Ruth.
Thankfully, this book of the Bible is nothing like Judges. We read about individuals who are faithful, loyal, hardworking and honorable.
If you’re paying attention to the news lately you’ll hear a mixture of very sad statistics right alongside stories of people doing good. And that’s one of the things that I appreciate about the book of Ruth: while all sorts of people are ignoring God’s Law, there are still righteous people, like Boaz, doing the right thing.
So while you are quarantined to your homes, what good and right thing can you do? It starts with how you treat and speak to those with whom you share a living space with. Do you find yourself with spare time on your hands these days? Instead of increasing your screen time, what good and right thing can you do for your neighbors (while maintaining your social distance, of course)? Maybe because your social calendar is empty, you actually have some spare change in your pocket. What good and right thing could you do for your church and/or community with that extra cash?
So while we are living in extraordinary times, you have the prime opportunity to do something special. Be faithful. Be loyal. Be hardworking. Be honorable. Be Christlike.
Bethany Ligon
Today’s Bible reading is the Book of Ruth (just 4 short chapters worth the read).  You can read or listen to it at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ruth+1-4&version=NIV
Tomorrow we begin the book of 1st Samuel (chapters 1-3) as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan .  Or, there is no time like today to start!  

Gifts

wise men

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  Matthew 2:11

 
‘Tis the season to be giving gifts. Like the Wise Men from long ago, we present our loved ones with gifts each Christmas. The gifts that were brought before the young Messiah, held great significance. The gold was representative of Jesus’ kingship. The incense points to Jesus’ priesthood. And the myrrh was an indication of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. All three were costly. All three were given as an act of worship.
But what about the gifts that we bring to the Messiah? What is it that you and I have that can be presented to the Prince of Peace? I can think of another trio of gifts that would be pleasing:
Acts of service
Acts of devotion
Acts of faith
I may not have gold to give, but I can serve. The two greatest commandments are to love God and love people. How we choose to do that on a daily basis are acts of service. When we put ourselves in a position of lifting others up, we are making an offering that is pleasing in God’s sight.
I may not have incense to give, but I can be devoted. We are instructed to love God with ALL of our heart, and with ALL of our soul, and with ALL of our mind, and with ALL of our strength. When we stop holding back and finally submit to our Lord all that we are, the good, the bad, and the ugly, we position ourselves to be forgiven by the great High Priest.
I may not have myrrh, but I can be faithful. When circumstances don’t make sense; when we are in a season of loss; when we have given every last effort, when we don’t know what else to do, we can still be faithful and trust in the One who gave himself for each one of us.
Friends, whether today is a day that you can be surrounded by those you love or you’re in a place where your heart is hurting (maybe it’s a combination of the two), know this: whatever you have, your joys and your sorrows, out of your wealth and your poverty, in your health and in your illness, the gifts you bring will be treasured beyond measure.
Bethany Ligon

Keep Running

FREE THEME

Hebrews 12 1 (2).png

 At our house, fall Saturdays (and several summer Saturdays, too) are all about cross country.  My son is a senior and has been running cross country since 6th grade. And this momma has grown to love watching the boys compete.  I wonder how much more our Heavenly Father loves to watch, encourage and cheer on His children who are giving it their all out on the course. 

Perhaps the writer of Hebrews was a runner himself, or had been to the games to cheer on his runner.  He wrote, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1). There are indeed so many parallels between the sweaty, tiring, exhilarating, physical sport of cross country racing and the spiritual race we are all in – for even when we are hunkered down, unmoving – the race is going on around us.  

First off – it is most important to know that the race isn’t just what is done on Saturday morning on the course.  It is all week long, all season long, all the training – effort – preparation – dedication – time – perseverance – discipline.  Likewise, if your spiritual race consists solely of an hour or two at church on Sunday morning, it will not be a very impressive race.  God desires more. The daily workouts – Bible reading. The high protein snack after a work-out – digging deeper into Scripture study. Hydrating daily throughout the week – prayer.  Avoiding the ice cream, pizza and pop – staying away from negative and harmful influences, entertainment and activities.  There are disciplines to follow to be a great runner – just as there are disciplines for being a follower of Jesus.  

Paul also got some good mileage from the racing metaphor.  He wrote to Timothy, “Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5)  On the cross country course it goes without saying that you actually have to run the assigned, mapped out race and follow the rules in order to compete.  Yet, in our spiritual race so many times we try to create our own course or our own rules.  

One thing I didn’t know about cross country 6 years ago was how much it is a team sport.  Sure, every runner wants to compete their best, finishing the race in a shorter time than before.  However, a team won’t win if they have just one or two top finishers. Their team score is compiled by what place their first 5 racers take – and the lowest score wins the meet.  So, it is in the best interest of every member on the team to run the best race they can – while at the same time helping and encouraging and motivating their pack of runners to finish well.  Similarly – the spiritual race is not an individual event. We are called to carry each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2), not give up meeting together (Hebrews 10:25), look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4), build each other up (1 Thessalonians 5:11), gently restore one caught in sin (Galatians 6:1), and of course, love (lots and lots of verses, including John 13:34).  How can you help a fellow runner better prepare for a strong race this week?

It’s God’s course – run it well according to His rules.  

Jesus makes an awesome coach – he’s run the race and knows what you need to succeed on the course of life.  Keep your eyes on him.  

Be disciplined – daily.  Your race requires dedication

Help your fellow runners.

 

Keep Running with Perseverance,

Marcia Railton

 

 

 

 

Transformed

Ephesians 4 24
My guilty pleasure shows, the ones I watch on those rare occasions when I am home by myself and have nothing to do (or at least would like to put off what I am suppose to do), are restaurant makeover shows.  It doesn’t matter the title, the host, or the characters.  I am sucked into the identical plot over and over again. A failing entrepreneur invites a celebrity chef into their restaurant to help them become more successful.  Initially, they admit that minor changes are in order, but don’t see any major cause for concern.  The business owner’s management is flawless. The food is great.  The decor could be updated. Just a tweak here and there and efforts will move from futile to flourishing.  And then celebrity chef gives the reality check (in a varyingly dramatic way).  He/she tells them the decor is dismal, the food is frightful, and by far the most monstrous piece that brings each element together is the mismanagement.  Yet the owners who willingly invited the chef into their restaurant, who have seen this play out on different channels, seasons, and time slots, express shock.  They shake their heads and fingers.  “Not us!” they say. “We are different!” they say. “We only invited you here because we thought we only needed small changes!” they say.

It is hard to accept the jarring reality that we’re terrible. That the entirety of everything we have accomplished for ourselves is considered a heap of filthy rags (Isa 64:6).  Our corrupted (Eph 4:22) business-as-usual model is rubbish, garbage, doo doo.  You don’t need to drop a couple items off the menu; you need a new menu.  You don’t need to gloss over the interior with a new color; you need some serious demolition work.  Most of all, you are not one or two adjustments away from being an excellent entrepreneur; you need a new manager. A major overhaul is in order, not a minor adjustment.  In order to do this Christian life, you must face there is a thread that tethers most of your issues:  you making the decisions.  Conversely, there is a simple solution to overcome challenges and have meaningful and lasting change: follow the model of Christ.  Less us, more Christ until we are gone, and there is only Christ.

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20

The Rich Young Ruler (Luke 18). Man, oh man – it is so hard to read his story because it hits so close to home. He invited Christ into his life to look at what He had accomplished because he had a pretty good thing going.  He thought he only needed a quick makeover. Then Jesus delivered some nauseating news to this guy: “You still lack one thing: Sell everything you own and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”  “Not me!” he thought. “I am different!” he thought. “I only invited you here because we thought we only needed small changes!” he sadly thought and walked away from Christ.  Had he not heard this requirement from Jesus already?  Matt 6:19-24 Luke 12:23; Or read about them in the law he kept? Deuteronomy 8:8-10; Psalm 62:10; Proverbs 11:28

Christ doesn’t call us to a simple makeover or even a renovation.  Our response cannot be accomplished by purchasing a new Bible, hitting up church camp, signing up for a mission trip, going to a Bible college, following commandments, or doing good works.  All of those things are beneficial, but they will not lead to lasting, permanent change – said by someone who has done ALL of those things.  TRANSFORMATION is literally changing (trans-) our very form (uh, form).  Tearing down the structure, ripping the very foundation from the earth, and then replacing it with a new foundation – our Cornerstone, Jesus Christ. THEN we seek our Chef, Architect, and Father for the new plan for our life.  For some of us, God may have used His infinite plan to provide us with the tools to build with for His glory or repurpose some pieces from the rubble, but more likely than not, we may be called to do something completely new, difficult, and can only be accomplished with a new creation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:The old has gone, the new is here! Do not conform to this world, but be transformed 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.” 1 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 12:2

TRANSFORMATION is not ours in a single day.  It begins with the decision to demo, but is a lifelong, day-by-day challenge to change not only the way we act, but our very mindset that allows us to test and approve what God’s will is for our lives. When we transform our thinking, health, sickness, wealth, poverty, where we live, what college we attend, our occupation, our family, persecution, what we eat or drink, and even death are not our simple circumstance but tools at the disposal of our God.  Every moment, every action becomes an opportunity to spread His good news of a coming Kingdom to begin the radical change in the hearts of others.  Ultimately, we have a great hope in the struggle of living a transformed life now.  Our lives will be transformed once-and-for-all, not over the course of a lifetime, but in a single instance – In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Cor 15:52,53).  It all begins today with listening and looking to the one who has already accomplished it.

-Aaron Winner

At the Wedding

John 2

John 2 5

Good morning everyone!  (Or afternoon, or evening, depending on when you get to this!)  Let’s take a look at John 2, a much easier chapter to dig into compared to yesterday’s in my opinion…

Thought #1 – Vs. 1-12:  The author here writes about Jesus’ first miracle; turning water into wine at a wedding.  We’re all probably relatively familiar with this passage, and most are probably aware that when Jesus answers his mother with “Woman” it does not mean disrespect in Greek like it might in today’s world (and if not, now you know!).  There is so much in this little story that we don’t know, such as who was getting married, why Jesus and his mother were attending, what the reactions were of the people who saw Jesus perform his first miracle, etc.  Despite reading this multiple times, I did find something new to think about this time through.  This time I saw that Mary already had faith in Jesus’ abilities before he had proven anything to her.  While we also don’t know much about Mary, we can pick up a few characteristics or insights into her life from the little we read.  For example, Mary’s faith has always relied on the idea about not needing to see to believe.  She has always had a deep trust in God, and in His power, and isn’t afraid to boldly ask for a miracle, at least according to what we can read in the Bible.  She has probably experienced God’s power in the most personal way of any human on earth, and I think it shows.  In this story, she doesn’t even really acknowledge Jesus’ response, but simply tells the servants to obey him.  What a mom thing to do… give a direction and not listen for any ifs, ands, or buts about it!  Mary knew what Jesus could accomplish before even seeing it happen, she had no doubts in God’s power that was within Jesus.  We are lucky enough to live in the present day where we have very easy access to a Bible that lays out all the miraculous things done in the past by Jesus.  I think we take that for granted!  I know in my own life I do not always fully trust in God or in His power to work in my life, yet I have 66 books’ worth of examples of how He has already done amazing things with that power!  How can you shape your faith to be a bit more like Mary’s – trusting God’s power to do the work needed even if we can’t see the outcome yet?

Thought #2 – Vs. 13-23:  I love this story about Jesus clearing out the Temple.  Maybe it’s because I’m a fan of people getting in trouble when I know they are doing wrong… I was definitely that kid in elementary school that ratted out any misbehavior immediately.  But beyond that, I think this story also makes for some great analogies and comes up with a lot of good thoughts!  In this story we see Jesus experiencing what can be termed a “righteous anger” towards the people who have dirtied the Temple.  He wasn’t just freaking out, or getting angry with people for messing up, he was upset that they were tarnishing the Temple of God in such a public way.  They knew very well what that Temple was for, and yet they chose to set up shop for a personal gain that did nothing for them in the long-run.  So Jesus clears them out in a very active way!  Later on we see Jesus compare this Temple to himself (vs. 21) and that got me thinking about how our bodies as temples for God sometimes need a good clearing out.  I’m not talking about a juice cleanse or anything like that, but I’m talking about an active removal of the things that aren’t supposed to be there.  This can be a wide variety of things… fear, sin, poisonous habits or relationships, you name it.  Sometimes we need to experience that same righteous anger in order to be motivated to clear out our life and get back on track with God.  Do you see any areas of your life that you feel need to be cleared out so you can be back on track with God?  What are you doing, or what can you do, to actively clean yourself out?

I hope our questions for today bring about some quality reflection time!  I know they got me thinking!

~Sarah

What am I doing?

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.

Romans 7

Do you ever find yourself doing things that you don’t want to do, or know that you shouldn’t?  Do you ever stop and think of something that you know you really should be doing, but aren’t doing?  I find myself in these situations, especially when I get busy.  I know that I should stop and take time to pray or spend time in scripture, but I am so busy that I put it off till later, and then to even later, and sometimes to the next day.  Paul talks about this same thing:

14 “For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.”

Paul apparently had the same problem at times.  He wanted to be filled with the spiritual things of God, but had sin in his life, just as each of us.  This kept him from being completely filled, completely focused on the spiritual things.

This is something that we will not completely overcome until the Kingdom of God is established.  It is something we won’t be able to do on our own, not even a little bit.  To make any progress on this will require help from God’s spirit dwelling in us.

I find comfort knowing that I am not alone in doing what I do not want to do, and not doing what I do want to do.  I also find hope in the fact that God has promised that He will help me and guide me, and that His power is available to me.  I encourage you today to reach out and seek God’s help, His power, and His guidance to do what you are called to be doing.

– Andrew Hamilton