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A New Person

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life has gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

I memorized this verse in college. I thought I understood its meaning well. The old life was my propensity toward sin. I had no power over sin, but when I became a believer, I had the power to not sin. That concept is true; without Christ, I have no power over sin. Yet, that truth alone limits the meaning of the verse.

What does my old life consist of? My beliefs, my identity, my values, my thoughts, my behavior are all part of that old life that scripture talks about. It is too narrow to think of the old life as just my lack of power over sin. My old life had me on the throne. I was in charge and in control. I was a Queen desperately protecting her kingdom which involved portraying an image that others would accept. Deep down I was afraid I wasn’t valuable. I had to convince myself and others I was. Most importantly, I had to prove it to God.

I still didn’t understand that the gospel was proof I was valuable to God. Intellectually, I got it. But practically, I didn’t live like it. I viewed myself the same as before, like the world values people. I came up either superior or inferior in comparison to others. Pride would raise its ugly head when I felt superior to others who struggled with sins I didn’t. It never dawned on me that I was sinning by being so prideful. I felt inferior when others saw my failures and mistakes. My worth vacillated like a clock pendulum.

Before I came to Christ, Satan fooled me into thinking I was on the throne, when I was really in prison. After I came to Christ, I put him on the throne, but I went in and out of prison like a recurring convict. My unbiblical view of myself kept me in chains. I was prisoner to my sinful patterns to protect my old identity. I was changing and growing, because God never lets us stay where we are, but I was stuck in the lies about who I was for so long.

Jesus came to set the prisoners free. “I will say to the prisoners, ‘Come out in freedom, and to those in darkness, ‘Come into the light.’ They will be my sheep, grazing in green pastures and on hills that were previously bare.” (Isaiah 49:9 NLT) When I trusted in Christ, I became a new person. I became who I was truly created to be, a child of the King of Kings. I became a sheep in the fold of the Good Shepherd.

I no longer had to exist in the darkness of the lies that Satan told me about who I was. I could come into the light of the truth and be set free from my sinful patterns committed to keeping my old self alive. I was free to be who God was making me to be.

It just took God awhile to help me understand it, believe it and embrace it. Now I can rejoice in all my failures and shortcomings because they keep me humble. God uses them to change me more into the image of his son. It is so wonderful to live in the light and be set free!

 

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Giving Thanks

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am busy getting ready to host our family for that famous meal. I make special recipes that I don’t make any other time of the year. Most of us have a set menu for our Thanksgiving meal that can’t be changed; like turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie!

It is also a time for remembering all that we have to be grateful for. Our family always goes around the table to say what we are thankful for before we dig in. Family is the overwhelming response at our table. I am so grateful for my family! I miss those who can’t be with us.

But recently I have come across some verses that remind me of other things I have to be so grateful for. Because of Christ, I am blessed beyond all measure. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ Jesus with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3a ESV) God doesn’t give me some blessings, he gives me every spiritual blessing. Later in Ephesians, Paul tells them God gave them the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that he will give us our inheritance he promised. Paul also says in Ephesians 2:6 that we are seated in the heavenly realms with Christ. It is really mind boggling what God has given us in Christ.

Paul also reminds the Corinthians of the same thing. “I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. Through him, God has enriched your church in every way-with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 1:4-7 NLT)

I have, you have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Not only can we be thankful for family, our country, but the gifts that God has showered on us. God generously gives to us even though we do not deserve it. We can’t do anything to earn his gifts. We are blessed beyond all measure in Christ Jesus our Lord. As my family goes around the table this Thanksgiving, I will give thanks and praise to God for all his spiritual blessing. How about you?

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Heaven on Earth

I confess, I was grumbling and complaining last evening, mostly in my mind. But it left me feeling grumpy and blue. Why? Because I was looking at my circumstances. I was counting all the health issues I have going on right now- seven. I was complaining because in my opinion there are so many people around me that aren’t putting God first in their lives. They are making choices contrary to his will. People who I love deeply and want the best for them. I was discouraged because I don’t feel like my writing is going anywhere. I just wanted to give up, no more blogging.

I knew exactly what my problem was, I was focusing on the wrong stuff. But I allowed myself to wallow for a while in my misery and disappointment with life. Let’s face it, no one ever has a perfect set of circumstances. There are always challenging relationships, trials and difficulties which are a part of everyone’s life. Life is hard a lot of time. Life can be exciting, joyful, fulfilling, satisfying and rewarding too, but it isn’t often enough. At least, that is how I felt last night.

I don’t mean to sound like a pessimist. I just know life never quite turns out how I planned or dreamed it to be. God enlightened me this morning about my problem. I am impatient. I want heaven on earth now! I want life to be perfect. I don’t want life to be disappointing and hard. Every time I place my expectation on this life to be like heaven, I get discouraged. Why do I do that to myself? I need to remember that heaven is coming someday but it is not now.

Jesus warned us about life here on earth. “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT) He did not tell his disciples that once they believed in him, his Father would make life comfortable and easy for them. He told them they could have peace despite their circumstances. He told them to take heart, cheer up! He had overcome, he had won the victory over Satan. He wanted them to remember that Satan was already defeated, but he was still going to wreak havoc for a time.

I have to be patient for God’s plan to be fulfilled in his timing. When Satan is finally thrown into the lake of fire, God will create a new heaven and new earth. Literally, heaven will be on earth! The two become one and it will be far greater and better than I could ever plan. Even if all my plans and dreams came true in this life, it would pale in comparison to what God has in store. I can rejoice and have peace, knowing that I get to participate in the new heaven and new earth! I need to keep my focus on that stuff. Join me in focusing on the eternal promises we have, not on life’s imperfections. Then we can experience his peace and his joy, instead of feeling grumpy and blue.

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Warning, Alien Woman Alert!

“There’s an alien woman driving on the road!” I laughed out loud while driving to my friends, thinking about what people were thinking as they drove past me. Why would they think that? Let me tell you a story. God definitely has a sense of humor.
I had promised a friend I would pick her up and drive her to a job interview at 2:30pm on Tuesday because she didn’t have a car. I doubled checked with her that morning and agreed to pick her up by 2:00pm. She lives 10-15 minutes away. That meant I would need to leave no later than 1:50pm. Okay no problem.

I had talked with my daughter about coloring my hair. I was leaving for California to visit my other daughter in two days. We discussed our schedule and decided to color my hair around noon. Plenty of time I thought. Well noon ended up being about 12:45pm. I knew my daughter had to leave by 2:00pm to pick up my grandson at school. I asked my daughter if she still had enough time to color my hair. However, I failed to communicate that I needed to leave by 1:50pm. She assured me she had enough time.

She mixed up the color and began the process of coloring my hair two different colors. Most of you women know that requires placing foil in your hair to separate the colors. I periodically glanced at the clock, as she layered my head with foil. About 1:30pm it dawned on me that I have to let the color process a while. I had not taken that time into account. Horror began to creep over my skull.

I casually asked my daughter when she thought she would be done, not wanting to sound worried. ”It’s going to take a while longer.” “Oh, I said, I really need to leave by 1:50pm.” “What! You never told my you needed to leave by then! Mom I will be lucky to be done coloring your hair by 2:00pm.” I panicked. I didn’t want my friend to be late. I also didn’t want to drive around with foil in my hair!

I quickly grabbed my phone and began to pull up my contacts to search for other women who could drive my friend. I located the first one and frantically called her number. “Please, please pick up,” I thought to myself. No answer. I called the next gal. No answer. I called the third gal. No answer. I began to pray. “Oh, Lord please let one of them call me back and drive her.” I decided to call each of them again. I got the same response. No answer. So, I texted the most likely gal to take my place. She responded a few minutes later with “Sorry, I ‘m shopping with an elderly lady right now.” My heart sunk.

Now I was worried that I would be late. I didn’t want to make my friend late to her interview. My daughter finished my hair at 2:05pm. I rushed out the door, head full of foil, and jumped in my car. Can you picture it? I have foil sticking out everywhere on my head. I looked like an alien with silver antennae ready to blurt out, “take me to your leader.” I can’t imagine what the other drivers thought as I passed them by. I admit it, I drove a little fast at times. Not only to get my friend to her job interview on time, but hoping I might be just a blur to the other drivers and passengers. Getting caught at stoplights was a killer.

I got my friend to her interview at 2:30pm on the dot. Now I had to hurry home and rinse out my hair before my color was ruined and all my hair fell out. I drove as fast as I thought I could. Last thing I needed was to get pulled over by a cop looking like an alien. They might have sent me off to Area 51!

I say God has a sense of humor because my last blog was about not being a slave to my outward appearance. He was testing me to make sure I live what I write. Hope you had a good laugh! I know I did.

Book Reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review -Living The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing.

CJ Manhaney actually wrote a previous version of this book back in 2002 called, The Cross Centered Life: Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing. This one is the updated version released in 2006. Both are great, but I would recommend this version over the original. CJ is leader of Sovereign Grace Ministries which helps to establish and support local churches. He served as pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD for 27 years.

I remember the first time I read this book, I didn’t get it. There were some things he said that resonated with me, but I honestly thought he was putting way too much focus on the gospel. At the time, I felt it was the attributes of God we needed to focus on to live a victorious Christian life. And don’t get me wrong, we still need to study the attributes of God to enlarge our vision and grow our faith. But if I only look to God the father, I’m missing his most important work. His attributes should lead me to the cross.

Then about 4 years ago, I reread his book and the light bulb went on! God had brought me to the place in my walk to finally understand. So what is the book about? CJ in the first chapter starts off with the following, “Each of our lives is centered on something. What’s at the center of yours?” Pause for a moment, what do you constantly think about? What is most important to you? What defines you?  He answers that question with what it should be, “If there’s anything in life we should be passionate about, it’s the gospel. And I don’t mean passionate only about sharing it with others; I mean passionate in thinking about the gospel, reflecting upon it, rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world and all of life.”

Some of his other chapters touch on why the gospel deserves our full attention. He has chapters on escaping the performance trap, not living by your emotions and practical ways to focus on the cross. This gem of a book is small, easy to read and full of deep truths. I highly recommend it. I’m sure I will periodically reread this one, it’s that good.

Some of you reading this post will totally understand my emphasis on the gospel, some of you will not. For those of you who may not get it, just like myself some years ago, don’t give up on this site. For those of you who understand my obsession with the gospel, I hope you will be reminded and encouraged by my posts. So let’s all keep digging together to uncover the many treasures of the gospel.