Giving Change a Chance

Change is a difficult challenge, and it’s my choice whether or not to embrace the changes that come into my path. The change necessary to manifest God’s will won’t be accomplished until I give God the chance to change me. Security, my need to control, and pride keep change from occurring in my life. Surrendering to the Holy Spirit starts a transformation that only God can accomplish through His Holy Spirit.

Security is linked to safety, and I cling to that which I know in a desperate attempt to remain safe. The irony is that my tendency to stick with the known threatens the very safety I am trying to protect. I remain content with the way things are and have always been. I convince others, and sometimes myself, that I know what I’m doing so I can avoid having to deal with changes that bring discomfort or uncertainty.

If I am to give God the chance to change me, I must be willing to step out of my comfort zone. Rearrangement, not change, occurs if I attempt to change on my own. Stepping into the unknown puts me in a prayerful state of mind and requires faith that God is who He says He is. That’s exactly where I need to be, but exactly where I don’t want to be. Like the Israelites, I complain and ask God why things cannot stay as they are.

God asks me to have faith and let go of my need to control. Admitting I need God is the first step. When I finally let go, God shows me how pleasant it is to have someone who knows the way lead me where I need to go. I would never step off a plane in a foreign country, signal for a taxi, and then tell the driver to move over, but I am guilty of doing just that when it comes to allowing God to have control.

Several years ago, I was in San Francisco on a business trip. It was during Chinese New Year, so my colleagues and I decided to go to China Town. I was separated from my group by a group of revelers dressed in a large red dragon costume. They were setting off firecrackers in front of each store to bring good luck to the store owners in the coming year. I began to panic as the fireworks got closer and my colleagues got further away. I was lost in a sea of foreign faces and filled with fear.

When faced with danger, I look for help. When in a ditch, I become very open to suggestions. The challenge of change is having the same attitude without the danger or the ditch. Successful people know the importance of change and are willing to take the risk involved. Like a child in the backseat, I bombard God with questions. When will I get there? How much longer? Where am I? I’m hungry! Can I have a drink? My father responded to those questions with the threat of pulling of the road. God’s patient love lets me wait until I am ready for the changes He has in mind for me. He pulls over for a very different reason.

God could easily take control, but that goes against the nature of His love. He loves me too much to force. Pride keeps me from giving God the chance to change me, but love bids me to relax and let Him has His way with me. When I listen to love, I am able to relax into obedience and allow change to bring the change God desires.

Psalm 51:10 is a plea from David that touches my heart in a special way. God cannot create a clean heart or renew a right spirit in me if I am not open to change.

Psalm51-10

A New Perspective

I’ll be moving into an apartment in town in a few weeks, and my granddaughters have been less than excited about it. My son and his family are building a new home, and I decided to rent rather than build beside them. We’ve all lived together in a big house for the last two years, and Lilly told me that my new house had to be in walking distance of her new one. She said she liked my house now because she could walk to it inside her house. I like that too, but I’m also looking forward to having my own space.

Lilly will be six in a few months, and I wonder when that little toddler was transformed into a girl who uses words like ‘cool’ and ‘dude!’ I’ll only be a few miles away from their new home, but that seems like a long way to little Mylah. She’s three and said, “Gigi, I already miss you!” They both touch my heart in places no one else ever has or ever will.

Lilly was washing her hands in my bathroom last week and came out grinning from ear to ear. She looked at me and said, “Mommy said I get your room when you move!” She proceeded to do a little happy dance, and I burst out laughing. Suddenly, she was no longer a little lawyer trying to get me to stay. She was a big girl getting her own room! Mylah didn’t look very happy about the new arrangements, but I know she will enjoy the changes once she gets used to them. I know I will too.

Change is never easy, but a shift in perspective helps with the transition. Philippians 3:21 explains the change that comes when I trust God. He has the power to change me, but I must have the courage to let Him.

“He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” (NLT)

God could make me whoever He wants me to be at any given time. He has the power, but He won’t use it until I’m ready. I am ready, and I know little Lilly is too. Mylah will be soon enough 🙂

Lillyann

 

Love That Listens

Love is on the hearts and minds of many this week as Valentine’s Day approaches. Paul talks about love in his first letter to the Corinthians, but he isn’t talking about Valentine’s Day love. Agape isn’t about romance; it is something much deeper. Valentine’s is more about lust and who gets the biggest bouquet, the best chocolates, the most expensive card. That isn’t the love Paul had in mind.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. (1 Corinthians 13:1-7 NLT)

Lust is anxious, jealous, boastful, and definitely keeps score. It doesn’t last and offers little hope. There is no shortage when it comes to lust because it depends upon excess. It breeds and spreads like a wildfire when ignited, but agape develops slowly over time and lasts into eternity. There is nothing more precious in this world or the next.

Our world loves lust, and that creates an environment that revolves around wanting what others have. I no longer want just what I want, I want what I think you want too. Many tears and much blood have spilled as a result of the wanting lust inspires. I’ve fallen prey to lust, but I’ve also experienced agape. Feeling the joy of having someone hear my heart and love me no matter what is changing me beautifully. Being embraced and loved as I am is allowing me to become more than I imagined I could be, That’s the power of love that listens.

Love changes my wants, and that was the sweet message God had for me this morning. I used to dread Valentine’s Day and buy myself a box of chocolates or a bouquet of flowers to help ease the pain of wanting what I thought I was missing. This year, I’m celebrating agape and plan to enjoy the week with my sweet little granddaughters and my loving friends. My heart is filled to overflowing with love that listens, and it doesn’t get any better than that.  I’ll share some chocolate with the girls and help them make cards, but I won’t be pining for what I’m missing because I’m learning that what I have is so much more than what I used to want.

Heart in the Sand

Love’s Legacy

My legacy will become my son’s inheritance when I die, so what I leave behind is very important to me. The rich fool in Christ’s parable has a legacy that will most likely consume his heirs the way it consumed him. The value of a life is measured in many ways, but I measure mine by what I treasure. Such was the case of the rich fool.

Jesus tried to warn the man of his folly, but I doubt he listened. Few of us do. Greed is a cruel master that cuts off communication with the ones closest to its victim. Riches have a way of getting in the way of relationship, and Jesus is trying to show that to the son asking Him for help with his brother.

Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.”

Jesus replied, “Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?” Then he said, “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.”

Then he told them a story: “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops. He said to himself, ‘What should I do? I don’t have room for all my crops.’ Then he said, ‘I know! I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods.  And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’

“Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” (Luke 12:13-21 NLT)

Riches make a fool of the wisest man, but lust and love go in opposite directions. A heart cannot serve both. Lust disguises itself as love, successfully fooling many. In Christ’s story, God recognizes the trap ensnaring the rich fool and tries to warn him before it is too late. Jesus is hoping to do the same for the two brothers and for us.

Love is the true measure of a rich life. It cannot be stored or counted; but it is the only thing I can count on. The riches of the man in Christ’s parable will most likely go to someone like the arguing brothers, and the legacy of lust will be passed to the next generation.

God’s legacy is love. Christ is His heir, and His precious love allows me to share that inheritance. The value of my inheritance grows if I share it with others, but it dwindles when I keep it for myself. The sons are worried that one will receive more than the other, and many of God’s children have the same fear when it comes to approval and love. God’s love is for all, and it grows as it is shared. That’s the biggest difference between a legacy of lust and a legacy of love is that lust divides while love multiplies.

I hope Christ’s precious love is the legacy I leave for my son and his beautiful family. It’s the only thing I can carry with me into eternity and leave behind in the hearts of those I love.

Photo Credit: yayabme.wix.com
Photo Credit: yayabme.wix.com

Follow My Heart

To treasure is to love or value greatly. If you want to find my treasure, follow my heart. It’s tempting to store up earthly treasure, but Jesus warns that earthly treasures are physical in nature and do not last. He suggests a different treasure that involves a change of heart.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!”

“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:19-24)

In The Message, Eugene Peterson translates verses 22-23 this way:

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!

I can relate to the terrible image in verse 23 because I pulled the blinds and stayed hidden in the dark for too long. God is opening my eyes wide in wonder and taking the blinds off my heart so I can see the true treasure of His Son’s precious love.

Dark cellars are safe places for hearts and treasures. I learned to hide my heart at a very early age and kept it hidden for most of my life. Jesus knows love only grows in openness, and I’m learning the same.

If you had followed my heart during most of my life, you would find a safe, dark cellar. If you follow it now, you’ll find an open window.

Photo Credit:  twomaisons
Photo Credit: twomaisons

Love is the Answer

Folks who claim to have all the answers when it comes to God or religion don’t make effective missionaries, teachers, or ministers. In his letter to Corinth, Paul is offering advice regarding food that has been offered to idols. His point is the same point Christ conveyed to His followers. Rely on love rather than knowledge.

Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes. (1 Corinthians 8:1-3 NLT)

Knowlege is easy to acquire and easier to spread around. Love doesn’t come easily, and sharing it takes a great deal of strength and courage. That’s true for individuals, and it’s true for the church. The church is a family, not an organization or a university. It is a group of imperfect people who are willing to risk everything for love.

No one enjoys learning or research more than I do, but I make sure to keep knowledge in its place. Love comes first, and that means giving up my need to know and be right. Love cannot be defined or described, but it can be shared. Love isn’t about facts; it’s about being recognized. Those who love me, know and recognize me with delight. In verse eight, Paul told the folks at Corinth, “the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.” Those are powerful words.

Knowing and knowledge are not the same. Knowing and loving go hand in hand. Love allows me to know God, myself, and others. I get sidetracked by ego or lost in lust when I rely on my head knowledge instead of my heart knowing. A heart full of love is a heart filled with God. Paul isn’t saying to give up knowledge. He simply wants, what God wants, for me to put love first. When I do that, wisdom replaces knowledge, and love leads the way.

A Heart Full of Love

Authentic Authority

Evil spirits haunting a man in the synagogue knew Jesus and asked why He was interfering with them. That made those in attendance stop and stare in disbelief. Jesus had performed  miracles before, but a conversation with evil spirits? When He told the spirits to be quiet and come out of the man, the crowd heard something they hadn’t heard before. They heard a man speaking with authority and wanted to know where He got that authority.

Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.

Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”

Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him.

Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee. (Mark 1:21-28 NLT)

The crowds were used to being read to, lectured, and told how they should behave. They were not accustomed to hearing someone speak with God’s authority. Jesus exerted that authority to the evil spirits, and they obeyed Him because they had no choice. God gives me a choice because He wants my obedience to be out of love.

Religious leaders resented Jesus. They were, and wanted to remain, the authority when it came to God and His Word. Who did this rabbi think He was? To the Pharisees, authority meant control. To Christ, authority meant freedom. The evil sprits were forced to obey Christ’s commands, and He could make all of us obey in the same way, but He wants obedience born in freedom and carried out in love. That’s the way He obeyed, and it made a beautiful difference in the world.

Photo Credit:maxresdefault
Photo Credit:maxresdefault

Religion or Relationship?

Christ’s love allows me to go from religion to relationship. Hebrews 8:5-13 describes how His precious love changes everything. God didn’t revise or amend His old covenant. His Son’s precious love forged a brand new one.

But now Jesus, our High Priest, has been given a ministry that is far superior to the old priesthood, for he is the one who mediates for us a far better covenant with God, based on better promises.

If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But when God found fault with the people, he said:

“The day is coming, says the Lord,
    when I will make a new covenant
    with the people of Israel and Judah.
This covenant will not be like the one
    I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
    and led them out of the land of Egypt.
They did not remain faithful to my covenant,
    so I turned my back on them, says the Lord.
But this is the new covenant I will make
    with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their minds,
    and I will write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
And they will not need to teach their neighbors,
    nor will they need to teach their relatives,
    saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’
For everyone, from the least to the greatest,
    will know me already.
And I will forgive their wickedness,
    and I will never again remember their sin

When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear. (NLT)

I’m preparing to move into a new home that is nothing like the one I’m in now. I’m going from 4000 square foot house sitting on top of a mountain to a tiny apartment downtown. I love the fact that my new home is a brand new house. New houses are wonderful, but new covenants can be uncomfortable.

Going from religion to relationship is difficult. Relationship is personal, and that means exposing my heart. God knows me, forgives me, and loves me. That makes the old way of relating obsolete. Religions cannot compete or compare with relationships, and no one understands that better than God. He prefers a loving family to a religious hierarchy. He always has, and He always will.
It’s difficult to do business with someone when you’re in love with them; that keeps love out of board rooms and office buildings. God didn’t, doesn’t, and never will run a business. He is love and sent His only Son to replace the “business” of religion with the love of relationship. Even the disciples didn’t completely get the point at first.  They wanted to know who would be in what position, but the resurrection made it crystal clear that Christ changed business as usual. Love had come down, and it was the new authority.
I wish we could all just love one another as God desires, but I know that won’t be possible as long as the world has a hold on us. God may have made a new covenant, but this world is still driven by business. I can allow myself to be driven by the world or let love do the driving. When I go with love, God opens the road and frees my heart in a way the world may not understand but does notice 🙂
Open Road

And God Changed His Mind

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 is a glimpse of the grace that results when God changes His mind. God never changes, but I love that He can and will change His mind. He can do whatever He wants to do, but; like Jonah, I find myself wanting Him to do what I want Him to do. That means sticking to the agenda and not embarrassing me with last minute changes.

Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”

This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all. On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.

When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened. (NLT)

Jonah was an important man delivering the message that Nineveh was about to be destroyed. The people heard and repented, but that didn’t make Jonah happy. In fact, he was angry when God extended grace and let them live. That may sound strange, but it is human nature to hurt when humiliated. He wanted them to get what they deserved, and he wanted to be right! God wanted them to change, so he forgave them when they did.

Forgiveness heals as nothing else, and no one knows that better than God. I don’t know what happened to Jonah. We leave him sulking over a plant while God asks where his compassion is for the 120,000 people and the animals of Nineveh who would have perished. God spared Jonah’s life and the lives of the sailors who pleaded for mercy, but time in the belly of the big fish didn’t seem to sweeten Jonah’s disposition.

Jonah is a book of incredible love, but that love doesn’t come from Jonah. I hope he found compassion, and I hope he learned to extend and accept forgiveness. I know God forgave him, but that doesn’t  mean he accepted. He may not have recognized his need for it. Like the older son in the story of the Prodigal Son, Jonah may have had a hard time seeing those who don’t deserve forgiveness and grace getting it. None of us deserve God’s grace, love, mercy, or forgiveness, but that doesn’t stop Him.

God lets me get angry, and he allows me to sulk when things don’t turn out the way I want. I can’t be too hard on Jonah because I’ve been where he is, and it isn’t a pleasant place to be. I learned years ago that seriousness is a serious sin that disguises itself in many ways. The need to be right or the need to retaliate get in the way of true forgiveness and cause my journey to be a self righteous march rather than a walk in God’s kingdom. I’m learning to let God humble me with humor when the sin of seriousness creeps into my path. As a dear friend once told me, a little levity goes a long way 🙂

 

Photo Credit: MisfitWisdom
Photo Credit: MisfitWisdom

 

Heir Apparent

Galatians 4:4-7 says I am not only God’s child, I am His heir.

“But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” (NLT)

Each one  of God’s children is His heir apparent. An heir apparent is “an heir whose claim cannot be set aside by the birth of another heir.” My inheritance is not in any danger when another child comes along. In fact, it is increased. The more, the merrier in God’s family.

Addressing God as my Father is powerful enough, but calling Him “Abba, Father” is amazing. It’s a term very similar to “daddy.” Not all fathers are daddies, and not all daddies are fathers. The term father indicates a biological connection, but daddy is all about love. God wants me to see Him as both, and that is beyond my understanding.

Last night, my son and his family were upstairs playing with one of the games the girls got for Christmas. There is no sweeter sound than the giggles and squeals of delight I hear when they are playing together in harmony. I know God feels the same way about His children. Living with my son’s family over the past two years has been a beautiful blessing. We have grown closer and learned to live and love together in one home. I’ll miss hearing those happy sounds when I move into my apartment in town in a few months, so I plan to enjoy every squeal until then.

God’s heirs inherit much more than money. He knows the greatest legacy we leave our children is love. I love my son dearly, and he knows I always will. He and Gina love love girls dearly, and it’s obvious they know they are loved. God’s love manifests itself in Christ’s precious love, and that love is passed on to His heirs through His Holy Spirit. As we accept His love, we enter into a family that stretches to every corner of this world. His love means I am no longer a slave. It means He is my Abba, Father. My daddy!

Psalm 29 reminds me that God’s power brings peace, Galatians 4 reminds me that Abba, Father’s love frees my heart from slavery. I needed both the lessons this week because I caught myself slipping into fear and forgetting Who’s my Daddy. As always, God’s Word brought me back to the sweet peaceful freedom of His presence.

Photo Credit: thedailyverses.blogspot.com
Photo Credit: thedailyverses.blogspot.com

 

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