Saturday, August 27, 2011

On the road to transformation: Spirit of Humility

Continuing on our journey of examining the character of Christ, and appropriating its beauty, we stop to gaze upon humility. This sweet spirit permeates the character of Christ and offers some remarkable points to consider. First, there is the seemingly bizarre contradiction of a fallen humanity, which puffs itself up, and the King of Kings, who lays His life down. Then, there is a rather incongruent truth in the fact that humility is both a foundational entry point and a pinnacle in the Kingdom of God. Humility is as simple as a child and as complex as our Lord.

The essence of humility emanates from a child-like faith. Unfortunately, instead of child-like trust, we tend to exhibit childish independence rejecting God’s help and substituting our own do-it-yourself plans. No amount of fruit gathered from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil diminishes the need for God. No amount of ‘pull yourself up by the bootstraps’ attitude shrinks our desperation for the power of God. Jesus demonstrated a completely different spirit. From childhood, He reminded even his own parents that His purpose was the Father’s business. Jesus clearly stated that His words and actions were those the Father gave to Him. Jesus came to do only the will of the Father; He never preferred his own plans or desires above the purposes of the Father. The spirit of humility acknowledges the right of God to one’s life with complete trust that whatever God deems will be best.

Growing in faith also necessitates continued awareness of our need for God’s perspective, plans and power. The pride of self-initiative hampers our Christian journey; only a humble spirit ascends the greatest heights in the Kingdom. The agony of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane passionately—gloriously--displays humility. Jesus poured out His anguish in tears, blood and words as He sought, verified and accepted the will of His Father. Jesus’ words to Peter during the arrest are the pinnacle of humility: “Shall I not drink the cup which my Father has given me?” The will of the Father was for Jesus to drink the cup of poison--the cup of our sins. Jesus drank so that we, His enemies, might live eternally as a co-heir with Him! His Spirit of Humility in us will show a willingness to drink the cup presented in our lives that we, too, might share in bringing life to undeserving sinners like ourselves. It is a glorious responsibility that demands exchanging our personal plans and purposes for the eternal, glorious plans of the Father! Let us beg Him to show us how to empty ourselves and let His fullness overflow!

Friday, August 19, 2011

On the road to transformation: Spirit of Wisdom in action

The lofty ideas of scripture may make our hearts soar in the pews on Sunday morning or in our morning devotion times, but those ideas brought into the trenches do even more: they allow the glory of God to blaze. Jesus did not come to delight our hearts; He came to give us abundant life! Last week we considered the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that infuses Christ’s character. Let’s walk today with a sister-in-Christ who allowed that Spirit to sustain her in the trenches of life.

The circumstances of our days can either block our view of Christ or lift us closer to Him. Elizabeth, a home school mother, felt overwhelmed as she faced the many tasks a new school year brought. Each responsibility felt weighty on its own: educating her own children, meeting her missionary responsibilities through Campus Bible Fellowship, editing a discipleship course, caring for the needs of family and serving in their church. All of us know the all-consuming weariness and despair the ‘simple’ tasks of life can bring. Sometimes it feels that survival is the best we can hope for in life: that is the lie of the enemy thrown up to block our vision of the risen Christ!

Early in the year, Elizabeth encountered a quote that God used to lift her eyes to the possibilities placed before her: “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.” Throughout the year, Elizabeth embraced the challenge to view her ‘impossible situations’ as opportunities for God. Mid-way through the year, her pastor quoted a verse she had known for years: ‘Without me, ye can do nothing.’ The Spirit grabbed that truth and immediately brought another to mind: ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me.’ Listen to how Elizabeth describes the ‘Spirit of wisdom and revelation’ that infused her with those words:

“For the first time I noticed the identical words in those two verses I had memorized years earlier. Without Christ I CAN DO nothing, but by His strength I CAN DO everything He wants me to do--even what seems humanly impossible.”

Elizabeth gives us a great example of the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation instilling confidence and hope for her earthly walk! Often, our minds know truths but our hearts fail to connect the realities of our life with the spiritual truths of Christ. God has plans and purposes for each of us; we need only to look to Him to have those plans fulfilled. In our faith walk, as we grow more like Christ, the Spirit continually uses the circumstances of life to highlight the truths we have hidden in our hearts and reveal the glory of God. What truths are you storing up for the Spirit‘s use in your heart and for the revelation of His glory?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

On the road to transformation: Spirit of Wisdom

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father most glorious, would give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation through knowing Christ fully. (Ephesians 1:17)

Christ’s spirit of wisdom and revelation infuses the Christian’s character. Christ demonstrated this spirit in all of His human interactions. He saw, listened and comprehended from His Father's viewpoint. Jesus looked beyond the circumstances presented by those who came to Him and focused on their spiritual needs. He shared the Father's interests in individuals --and a character built on Him will evidence that same association.

As Ambassadors for Christ, our natural reactions to those we encounter--whether sweet compassion or abrasive frustration--should never be the source that motivates us to action. We are not to be amateur Providences and change people's lives according to our feelings. God's ways are not our own; He has measured the weight He puts upon every person. What may seem excessive and unfair from the human perspective may be just the weight needed to save their eternal soul. Alternatively, what may appear to be tremendous blessing in a person's life may be a curse blinding them to their need for Jesus. As Christ's Ambassador, we need to share the reason for the hope with which we live and allow Him to guide in every interaction!

We need His Spirit to give us deep understanding of situations and the Truths of God that will speak to hearts. We receive discernment to help us intercede for others--never to judge them. The wisdom of God is pure, peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere (James 3:17). As we listen to the hearts of others through the Spirit, He will give us words that encourage others and reveal His beauty. He may impress upon our hearts the need to provide direct help or He may simply burden us to pray and love. As we heed His guidance, we will learn more about Him ourselves and grow ever closer to His likeness! Might we each increasingly embrace the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation He offers so freely!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pre-destined: to be like Christ!

With only an earthly perspective, Jesus life is not one of victory. His public career lasted only three years and ended with an unjust death in the prime of life. Obviously, the earthly perspective is woefully inadequate! The eternal perspective reveals Christ’s life as one of total victory. Christ brought to completion the Father’s plan implemented at Creation! Christ’s life is an example for all who wish to live victoriously. Deliberately seeking God will transform us into His image.

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Examining Christ’s character as revealed in scripture helps us see the goal God has for each of us. Character is a critical aspect of each individual. It bears stating that character exists outside of Christ. Human character, even at its most beautiful and powerful, is bound to earthly dimensions. Christ-like character transcends time and space; it is the essence of eternal victory.

The world in which we live encourages us to indulge ourselves with little thought to our inner character. Pleasing ‘self’ is a constant temptation. Unfortunately, a soil of pleasure never develops Christian character. Furthermore, neither church pews nor bible studies produce the character God desires. Christ-like character requires the work of the Holy Spirit and personal sacrifice. God’s Word also tells us that perseverance develops character. As we trace the source of perseverance, our hearts will tremble—for the source of perseverance is suffering. Pressing on in the face of discomfort is critical to character. Thankfully, for the Christian, suffering can be a source of joy BECAUSE the hope of God is a certainty that sustains. Just as the changeless nature of God is a rock-solid foundation, so our transformation is a glorious promise.

The entry point to transformation into Christ-likeness is repentance. Jesus said that He came to call us to repentance: to exercise a change of mind--a turning from personal motivations to His revealed truth. Undoubtedly, this is a most unnatural characteristic. In fact, repentance is actually a gift much like faith. Repentance is not simply recognizing sin or regret for the results of sin. A Spirit of Repentance recognizes that the choice to walk apart from God's revealed truth is the underlying problem. Repentance recognizes that God's ways are not situational or conditional; His truth has an integrity that makes His ways work ALL the time. Repentance propels us back to His ways and prepares us for transformation into the image of Christ.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blog Plans

Friday, August 5, 2011

Blog Plans

My mind has been whirring this past week about how I could best use my blogs. I am so thankful for folks who are interested in reading anything I happen to write :<)! Each blog has its own set of subscribers, so this is the most effective way to share the overall plans. If the other blog interests you more, just unsubscribe and go that site to subscribe. Or do both! Whatever will bless you.

So here goes:

Lives Under Construction will focus on serving Christ. I will write devotions on the topic but will also highlight opportunities (generic, local and national). Please consider submitting information or topics you might like to know about. I anticipate 2-3 posts per week max on this blog. This site address is:

Learning and Growing Together will remain my devotional blog and includes the weekly Baptist Voice column. I anticipate posting on this blog 1-2 times per week and it is located at:

Thanks for walking with me as we seek Jesus!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Victories: Parkinsons

Parkinson’s disease is relentless and destructive. It attacks the body in a myriad of ways: hand tremors, walking impairments, speech, and even involuntary movements such as blinking. Seldom is Parkinson’s linked to the concept of a blessing. Our victory report today, though, is somehow who sees eternal victories in this earthly curse.

Perhaps you have unknowingly enjoyed some of the victory yourself through attendance at one of the Southern Gospel concerts at First Baptist Church of Port Crane. Dave Samson, the concert organizer, is God’s victorious soldier of today’s column. His victory report is not without the reality of damage inflicted through Parkinson’s. The loss of his job and its income; increased difficulties with basic and necessary daily tasks: speaking, writing, typing, buttoning a shirt, driving, walking; impairment of his carpentry hobby; and greater burdens on his wife and family are all part of Dave’s battlefield losses. Nevertheless, Dave also sees a field of sowing and harvesting created by the Parkinson’s because it narrowed his options and increased his focus!

Dave had long enjoyed listening to Southern Gospel Concerts. He and his wife, Terri traveled to area performances as their schedules permitted, but never dreamed of organizing local events. As Dave’s disease progressed, his sales career in Christian resources became difficult to the point of danger. His driving ability impacted by the disease, Dave accepted the need to apply for disability. The debilitation to Dave’s overall motor function sped the disability process along and financial worries were somewhat eased. However, Dave officially became ‘disabled’ rather rapidly, and he felt at loose ends. Though all of his movements had slowed, he still wanted to live fully!

Much to his frustration, the diagnosis generated such sympathy from those who cared that others often restrained him from doing even what he could. In fact, the kind intentions began to make him feel not like an invalid but as if he were simply in-valid—of no apparent use anymore. Fortunately, Dave believed (and believes) that when God allows one door to close, it is so He can clear the path to a better doorway. Such was the case in this situation.

It began when Dave agreed to the simple task of making a phone call to find out about the availability of a gospel group. It has grown to a Southern Gospel concert ministry with hundreds who attend at a tiny country church in rural New York. Every concert touches hearts for Jesus; many times, there are professions of salvation or rededication.

Dave willingly pays the physical costs for this labor of love. He says his illness has given him time; the ministry provides him purpose. He sees victories that are eternal because he accepts the disease as filtered through by the loving hand of the Sovereign Father. Is there something in your life that needs a new perspective? Ask God to show you how He can transform your roadblock into a doorway to blessing!

Jeremiah 29:11