The Transformation Of The Old Man And The Car

God, salvation, santificationI read a story recently that put a smile on my face.  The story centered around an old car but it was really a story about memories, shared experiences, love and most importantly, rebirth.

The paraphrased version goes something like this:  In the early 70’s a young urban couple who did not own a car and did not need one for transportation purposes began looking for a vehicle for weekend getaways and longer road trip vacations.  They were getting to the place financially where they could afford something that would be fun but not too extravagant.  After reading a few reviews in various automotive publications they settled on a 1973 Porsche 911 from a local dealership.

For 7 years they enjoyed their little Porsche.  It was their ticket to freedom after long work-weeks and it went up and down the highways and interstates of the US while bringing countless smiles and untold joy into its’ owners lives.  Then, in 1980, a job offer came from a much bigger company in a much bigger city and it was time to move.  The only downside to the new arrangement, no easy or safe place to park their beloved 911 in the big city.  After much thought and several late night discussions the couple decided that they did not want to sell the car so a local storage facility was located.  There the little Porsche would remain, tarp covered and silent for the next 33 years.

Once every few years someone would mention the car and the good times and a discussion would be had as to the car’s future and what should eventually be done with it.  This went on until 2013 when the couple was having dinner with some friends and the discussion turned to reminiscing about the past and the little car was mentioned.  The dinner guests’ eyes lit up, they were Porsche enthusiasts and knew a master mechanic who specialized in restoring early 911’s and encouraged the couple to have the car appraised and to meet with the master mechanic.

Not too long after, the couple stood in the storage facility together with someone new.  The master mechanic had come and lifted the tarp off of the 911 for the first time in many years.  His eyes lit up as he looked over the car.  Even with flat tires and covered in dust he could see the excellent condition of the interior and the fact that the odometer read a little over 35,000 miles.  The spare tire and tool-kit were intact and there was no rust anywhere.

So the question came.  “How much to bring her back to life, the way she was in 1973?”  The master thought for a few moments and then said “$20,000”.  Slightly shocked, the husband replied, “why would I spend $20,000 to restore a car that’s only worth maybe $20,000”?  The master smiled and said “put a 1 in front of your number.  The car’s restored worth is over $100,000.”

For the restoration the couple gave the master full authority to do whatever he needed to do to bring the old 911 back to life.  Every inch of the car was inspected and under the master’s watchful eye and practiced hand, that which needed to replaced was replaced with only the finest and best.  The master even went so far as to call in others who shared his enthusiasm for the project and used their expertise and their hands to make the little car even better than it was when it was brand new.

Finally the day came when the master gave his stamp of approval and said “the car is ready and the work is done!”  So the couple once again hopped into their little 1973 Porsche 911 that looked and operated even better than it did when it sat on the showroom floor all those years ago.  Their first drive was to the local Porsche dealership to have the car inspected and tested and it is not a stretch to say that every mechanic and technician in the place was stunned and delighted to see the absolute perfection of that early 911 sitting in their service area.

Everywhere the couple went people stopped and smiled at the little car.  Even folks not familiar with cars knew it was something special and beautiful and could see the joy that it brought to its owners.  It was clear that the little car had been well loved and was now fulfilling its intended purpose in a special and beautiful way.

As I finished reading the story I realized that I was smiling.  Something about it had warmed my heart and resonated very deeply with me.  I contemplated for a few moments and then I thought about what the Father did for me.  I thought about Him seeing me in the state that I was in and deciding that I was loved and that I had value.  I thought about the process of sanctification and how it sometimes feels like I am being disassembled and certain parts of me are being replaced with better thoughts and better ideas and Godly motivations.  And it didn’t take very long until I understood exactly why it was that I like this story very, very much.

And as I continued with my contemplation I realized that I was smiling and that my heart was warm because I was thankful.  I am thankful that God is still working on me and is still fixing me up for my intended purpose.  I am thankful that rebirth is not only possible but is in process simply because God loves me that much.  My “old man”, my old self, will not be my last self.  The Master is seeing to it and great joy will be the result.

 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 

(2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV)

 

Prayer Workers Wanted: Apply Within Your Heart

prayer, god, quiet timeHave you ever read something that immediately grabbed your attention and made you sit up and take notice?  Perhaps it made you begin to think and to question the way in which you were doing something or going about your life.  Maybe it was so profound that it stuck with you and caused you to want to do better and to be better.

Such a thing happened to me recently.  I was reading a monthly publication and an article about prayer when I came across the following paragraph.

Craig Warner, Executive Director for the Gideon’s International writes:

Intentional and genuine prayer is work.  Praying is much more than a physical exercise of bowing our heads, clasping our hands together, and going to our knees.  The goal of prayer is God Himself – not joy, peace or blessing.  How do we reach that goal?  Practice.  In his book, The Path of Prayer, Samuel Chadwick writes, “Though a man shall have all knowledge about prayer, and  though he understands all mysteries about prayer, unless he prays he will never learn to pray”.

I can’t stop thinking about it and even better, I can’t stop praying about it.  I want to know God better.  I want all of Him, or as least as much as I can handle in this earthly body.  The principle path to knowing God better is prayer so that means I need to get a lot better at prayer and talking to Him!

I think for most of us the primary obstacle to a better prayer life is the time and effort that we are willing to invest in it.  In other words, we aren’t doing the work required, we aren’t making prayer a priority and therefore our relationship with our Heavenly Father isn’t as strong as it could be.  I know this to be true in my case and I suspect it may be true in the lives of other Christians as well.

It’s been said that prayer is our power source and that is almost right.  Prayer is not the power source, God is the power source and prayer is the method by which we stay filled with the Spirit and in harmony with the power source.  The more we pray the more we are able to attune our hearts to the master and creator of the universe who is also our savior and our friend.  The miracle in all of this is that he desires our companionship and love more than we desire His.  He seeks us, draws us, teaches us and is always working on our behalf and unless we stay in contact with Him through prayer we are apt to miss most of what He is doing.

God is so good and the depth of his love and character is infinite.  Although we have an eternity to get to know him the sooner we start and the more emphasis we place on prayer the better and sweeter our lives will be.  And through our connection to God others around us will be blessed and God’s kingdom will grow.

Good Things Come

blessings, God, lifeGood things come to those who wait.  That’s how the expression goes and I have found it to be true.  But, as a child of God, good things come to us every single day and we need to acknowledge them and then give our thanks for them.  Here are a few of my favorite verses that talk about all the good things that God does for us.

James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (NASB)  God gives good gifts and He gives them in all kinds of ways.  His giving is constant and never ceases because His goodness never changes.  We, in turn, are to give joyously because God first gave to us.

Psalm 24:1 The earth is the Lord‘s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. (KJV)  This is one of my favorite verses because it reminds me that nothing is too big for God.  The whole world belongs to Him.  All created things are His and we exist in Him and through Him.  We will never lack for the resources we need because our Heavenly Father has them all.

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, (NASB) Ephesians 1:3 speaks to God having given us all that we need to accomplish His will through His son Jesus Christ.  He’s already blessed us with what we need and He gives generously to all who ask.  Our part is to recognize our need and depend on Him to fulfill it.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (NASB)  God was thinking about His children long before we were created.  In fact, he prepared good things in the form of good works and placed them along our life paths so that we would discover them as we walk in Him.  I think of these as pre-ordained presents from God that will be given at certain times and in certain places, just because God is good.

Psalm 104:14-15 He causes the grass to grow for the cattle, and vegetation for the labor of man, so that he may bring forth food from the earth, and wine which makes man’s heart glad,so that he may make his face glisten with oil, and food which sustains man’s heart. (NASB) These are sometimes referred to as the blessings of life.  We should all be well familiar with them but just because we are familiar with them we tend to take them the most for granted.  Along with the knowledge the we are blessed we need to understand that our life could be over in an instant and that any of these life blessings could end tomorrow.  Don’t take God’s blessings for granted and don’t forget to thank Him for all these good things.

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (NASB) This is perhaps the most amazing verse in the Bible that deals with good things coming.  God is so mighty and so powerful that He is able to take any problem or circumstance and cause it to produce a good result for His children.  Don’t misunderstand.  Not all things are good and not all things are positive.  Evil is real and it is terrible.  But God is able.  He always gets the last word and through Him our ultimate victory is assured.  

Brothers and sisters in Christ: good things are coming.  Do you see them and are you ready to receive what God has for you?

 

 

 

 

What I Wish I Could Tell Myself Twenty Years Ago

Wisdom, Knowledge, GodThis is my thirty-ninth year.  God has been very good to me and every day I realize just how blessed and favored that I am.  As I start to count my blessings and thank God for His provision I can’t help but look back and see how far He has brought me.

Twenty years ago I was nineteen and in a state of transition, as many at that age are.  I had just started college, a semester late and a semester behind most of the other kids my age.  I was away from home for the first time and every day was a new learning experience.  Although I greatly enjoyed my college years I can look back and recognize mistakes I made and habits that I developed that I wish I hadn’t.

They say wisdom is gained through experience.  I pray that I gained wisdom from my errors and have learned a better way.  Even so, if I could take a few things that I know now and tell my nineteen-year old self back then, this is what I would say:

1. A life lived in complete surrender to God is the richest and fullest life you can have.  This is the absolute most important truth that I could impart to anyone, at any age.  Surrender is such a difficult concept for us humans and I believe that it gets tougher as we get older.  The younger you are when you decide to fully surrender your life to God and start to take the necessary steps to live a Godly life, the better off you will be.  The reason why?  Because God takes our surrendered lives and produces love, joy and peace in us and through us, something we can never do on our own.

2. You can’t take it back.  I’ve said some things in my life that I wish I hadn’t.  And as sorry as I might be after the offending words have left my lips, I have never been able to call them back.  My words have hurt people, led them astray and many times have been full of foolishness.  If you are like me, you can identify moments in your life when you wish you had said something different or just kept your mouth shut.  My goal at this point in my life is to try and make sure my speech matches up to Colossians 4:6 which says “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”  Speak grace (unmerited favor) and wisdom and you can never go wrong.

3. Don’t live in debt.  Financially speaking.  Don’t spend more than you make.  Live below your means.  Live well below your means because that is the truest and best path to prosperity.  Don’t waste what you earn and what you are given on fruitless pursuits and on things that don’t bring glory to God because you will only regret it later.  It’s so easy to use a credit card and to buy things that seem like fun now only to realize that you can’t afford to pay it off at the end of the month.  It’s easy to dig yourself into a financial hole and very difficult to dig yourself out of one.  Learn to handle money wisely, respect your resources and get into the habit of saving money.  That way you can give your tithe and offerings to God with a clear and unburdened heart and know that God will bless you for it.

4. Be patient.  All things happen in God’s time.  Despite what our society is telling us, you really can’t have it all right now.  Some things can and should be waited for.  Be patient and pray for faithfulness while you look for your cue from God that it is time to act.  Wait for sex until marriage, it really is worth it.  Wait until you’ve grown up a little bit before you buy a really nice car or other big ticket item because without the benefit of maturity, you won’t appreciate it properly.  Wait for experience and study of God’s Word to teach you wisdom and knowledge of the truth.  If you keep your focus on God then you won’t miss anything good that God has coming your way.  Getting impatient and doing things out of order just causes problems for you and for others and can bring you heartache and pain.

5. God can fix it.  Inevitably you will mess up.  I have actually failed at all of these in one way or another!  Amazingly, God still loves me and there isn’t a mess that I have gotten myself into that His love and His grace haven’t been able to get me out of.  That isn’t to say that we should ever take God’s grace lightly or forget what it cost Him.  Sin is serious and there are always consequences for our sin.  But praise God that His grace is always greater than my sin and He can work any problem, error or mistake out for ultimate good.  Only an awesome God could do something like that and I know that when I fail I can always turn to Him for His help.  If you’ve messed up, let God have it and let God fix it, because only He can.

These are the five things that I would tell myself twenty years ago, if I could.  Although it isn’t possible for me to deliver this message back in time, I can deliver it to you and ask you to deliver it to anyone that you think it might help.  I want the best possible life for everyone I meet and if someone else can benefit from my experiences then I will thank God for that.

Do We Deny His Redeeming Power?

Redemption, Salvation, GodOne of the most central components of Christianity is the belief that by identifying ourselves with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we can be born again.  “Saved” we call it.  And although we are saved in a moment, we do not instantly become Christ-like.  (In fact, without a great deal of prayer, Bible study and help from other Christians, we never will in this life become Christ like – but that’s a post for a different day).

If we claim to be a Christian, then we claim to have been redeemed.  Where once we were spiritually dead and belonged to this world, we are now alive with Christ, born again in spirit, claimed by God forevermore.  This act of redemption is powerful, and in terms of our salvation, once is all that is needed.

But God’s redeeming work does not stop there.

God not only wants to redeem our souls so that we can one day join Him in Heaven, He also desires to redeem our lives while we are here on this earth.  Based on my observations, I wonder how many of us really understand that God is actively involved in the process of redeeming his creation in the here and now.

Whatever mistakes you’ve made, whatever weaknesses and failures that you are currently experiencing, God can take those and redeem them for His glory.  A mistake need not be the end.  A failure need not be forever.  And a tragedy need not have the final word.  Only God has the final word, and there is nothing that He cannot do.

Satan, our adversary, likes nothing more than to see us stumble and fall.  He does everything in his power to cause it, in fact.  But God, who is infinitely stronger and greater, likes nothing more than to take Satan’s most cunning schemes and turn them on their head so that they ultimately benefit His kingdom and His children.

I am certainly not saying that we should aim to fail, nor am I saying that a tragedy is really not tragic.  Heartache and pain come to us all and as long as we live in this fallen world, we will all experience the consequences of sin.  What I am saying is that our God is so great and so amazing that He can take our darkest moment and our worst nightmare and bring blessings and goodness from it.

God is still in the business of redemption and he specializes in bringing dead things back to life.  Darkness cannot stand before Him and death and Hell have no power over Him.  There is no moment or circumstance that surprises Him and there is no time that He is not in control and not actively working for the ultimate good of those He loves and calls His own.

Remember well, brothers and sisters: when we choose to allow our circumstances to defeat us and we become dismayed and bleak because of the trials of this life, what we are really saying is that we do not believe that our God is big enough to redeem even this.  May we never deny His redeeming power!

America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great – Book Review

DSC02646If you aren’t already familiar with Dr. Ben Carson and you live in the USA then chances are that in the next couple of years you will be.  His life story and rise to prominent humanitarian success has been the subject of a movie (entitled “Gifted Hands” and starring Cuba Gooding Jr.) and he has written several best-selling books, of which “America the Beautiful” is the latest.

Since the release of “America the Beautiful” Dr. Carson has gained popularity as a practical, intelligent and compassionate voice calling for the American people to rediscover what made our nation great.  He is seen in many circles as a modern day patriot who even as a registered Independent maintains conservative, Godly principles of government and management.  For this reason and others, he has recently been approached by more than one group who wishes him to run for President in 2016.

While he himself has not acknowledged any plans to enter the presidential race as of yet, after reading “America the Beautiful” it is my wish that Dr. Carson be a candidate.  He has a clear understanding of how our nation was formed, how we rose to prominence in the world and that we must return to honoring God for our success if we are to continue to survive.

“America the Beautiful” begins with a look back at our nation’s history and its key players and events.  This was truly my favorite part of the book because I am a fan of history and because Dr. Carson provides plenty of evidence to support the fact that our founding fathers truly wanted “one nation under God”.  From George Washington to Ben Franklin to Thomas Jefferson, every single one of them at some point publicly acknowledged the role of the sovereign God in their lives and in the formation of this country.

Our nation was founded on “in God we Trust” and the basic ideas that government should not interfere in the lives and freedoms of its people but rather uphold and protect “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” equally for all.  When we remember and practice these tenants, we thrive.  When we forget and personal liberty is trampled we stumble and fall.

Dr. Carson then goes on to show how our nation has had its fair share of mistakes (slavery, the Civil War, the treatment of Native Americans and Japanese during WWII, civil rights) but also how we have learned from those mistakes.  He contrasts those periods in our nation’s history with the period we find ourselves in now where there is much uncertainty about our nation’s role in the world and the vast split in political ideology that seems to have occurred.

Dr. Carson is hopeful that with the intelligence and potential that the American people possess we can find the answers to the problems that we face.  Dr. Carson calls for the involvement of the best and the brightest in the process of government as well as a return to a government that is “of the people, for the people and by the people”.  In other words, we need real human beings from all walks of life involved in our political system in order for it to function properly and not just those who wish to be career politicians.  In this, I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Carson.

Towards the end of the book Dr. Carson discusses some of the bigger problems facing our nation at this juncture and the Affordable Care Act is one of those topics.  Being a surgeon and well respected doctor, Dr. Carson’s ideas and suggestions in this area carry a lot of weight in my mind.  Dr. Carson is a brilliant man who has real experience working in the medical field and he seems to have an excellent grasp on what is needed to truly provide adequate healthcare for our populace while not bankrupting us in the process.

While the Affordable Care Act is not the only notable topic that Dr. Carson discusses in the latter parts of his book, it is perhaps the most timely.  I think what he has to say about this and about the direction our country is headed in is important enough that I would recommend “America the Beautiful” to anyone who wanted to read it.

“America the Beautiful” may not be the most fun or exciting book that I’ve read lately but it just might be one of the most important.  I pray that God is already working to provide the right leader for our country in 2016 and that we as a nation remember to honor and acknowledge God in all of our ways.  Dr. Ben Carson might just be exactly what we need and if you read “America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great” you will hopefully agree with me.

ISBN-13  978-0310330912

Publisher: Zondervan

Publication date: January 22, 2013

Pages: 224

The Secret to Being Thankful at All Times

Thanksgiving, StewardshipIs it really possible to always be thankful?  Can we, as imperfect beings, really practice thankfulness in all situations and at all times?  I believe it is possible and, according to God’s word, it is exactly what we are commanded to do.

The topic of thankfulness is one that is found throughout the Bible, and for good reason.  God is good and the ultimate expression of His goodness was revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on the cross.  This is the foundation on which our faith is based and I don’t believe that it is possible to thank God enough for this one marvelous gift.

But it doesn’t stop there.  God is good in the way that He is patient with us and reveals His character from faith to faith.  He spoke through the prophets and apostles that were inspired to write His words so that we could learn and be encouraged and lack for nothing.  And today, His spirit is still working and revealing truth to those who listen to His still small voice.

In addition, God is a provider.  It is His word that spoke this world into existence and it is His will that maintains it.  He provides the air that we breathe, the water that we drink and the food that we eat.  He is actively involved in the lives of His children and He has promised that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Yet, as thankful as I am for all of these things, there is one piece of knowledge that I must have before I can be thankful at all times.  There is one attitude that I must adopt and one truth that I must believe with every fiber of my being that makes all the difference.  It can be summed up in one word: steward.

I am a steward, not an owner.  I am a caretaker, not a creator.  I am a conduit, not a source.

All that I have and all that I am and all that I experience and enjoy belongs to God.  He made it all and He keeps it going.  He provides the life, the strength, the sustenance, the gifts, and the talents and He has tasked me with feeding His sheep and walking humbly with Him.

This is the key.  This is the pillar on which a life lived in thankfulness must be built.  This is the secret that every man, woman and child should be taught to understand.  Our thankfulness comes not from what we have been given and certainly not from what we think we are due.  Our thankfulness comes from who we were created to be.

If You Know Nothing Else, Know This One Thing

the character of GodOk, I admit it.  I am not as well-adjusted as I look.  I am prone to bouts of worry and I tend to over think and over analyze just about everything.  I regularly spend so much time focused on the thoughts and ideas that are banging around inside my head that I miss what is going on right in front of me.

I’ve also been known to fall victim to my own fears and doubts.  I fear failure, both for myself and my endeavors, and I doubt my ability to do what’s required of me.  Can I really be the faithful follower that God has asked me to be?  Can I really love my wife as I should; unconditionally and without reservation?  And can I really continue to write and speak about the Truth when I am so often persuaded by a lie?

Spoken more plainly, why does God choose to use us to carry out His plans when we are so weak and prone to failure?

The answer, I am learning, has far more to do with the nature and character of God than it has to do with anything about us.

From a personal perspective, the more I get to know Him, the better I see His nature and understand His character.  And if there is one awesome truth that God has given me a glimpse of lately it is that He cannot fail, He cannot lose and He is always faithful.  He is constant when I am wayward.  He is loving when I am unkind.  He is victorious through the most horrific of circumstances and there is absolutely nothing that He cannot do.

God is not surprised.  God is not overwhelmed.  God is not tired.  And God’s purposes are always accomplished in His time and in His way.

To know that I am privileged to be a part of His divine plan for redemption and that He is patiently working through me is a marvelous thing.  Although there is still so much that I don’t understand I am beginning to realize that as I am faithful and obedient, God will  provide me with exactly what I need to do His work, when I need it.  Instead of focusing on my weakness, my fear and my doubts, I will instead focus on His strength, His glory and His love.

This is a fundamentally important and necessary shift in my perspective that must take place if I am to walk in a manner that pleases God.  What does the writer of Hebrews say?

“And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NASB)

We must have faith in the character and nature of God.  The only way to have that faith is to get to know Him and to let Him be Lord in every area of our lives.  We must continually seek Him and never stop following hard after Him.

“Lord, may we strive to know you ever better.  May we be faithful followers.  May we seek you first and always.  And may the desire of our hearts be to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ our Savior.  Amen.”

The Everything from Nothing Exchange

grace, strength, God“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 NASB)

The weakness of the flesh is always there.  On some days it is less apparent and we feel energetic and strong, like we could touch the sky.  On other days, it stands in our way and tries to block us at every turn, becoming a weight on our backs and pain in our bodies.

We don’t like being weak.  It makes us feel “less”.  We don’t like how it slows us down and holds us back.  “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” says the Good Book.  And yet we wish that it were not so.

From a personal perspective, I struggle with mental and physical exhaustion on a weekly basis.  I think “if I just had more time and energy, I could do so much more and be so much more!”  But I am starting to learn that this is not necessarily God’s way.  The way He works is somewhat different, and altogether better.

Hypothetically, let us say that we were granted with an endless supply of energy.  What could we accomplish and what we could we do?  Would we really be more effective and productive day to day or would we simply waste more time and make more mistakes due to our fallibility?  With unlimited energy would we depend on God more than we do now or less than we do now?

I think both you and I know the answer to that question, and so does the Lord.

Make no mistake, our weakness and fallibility is a direct result of our sinful condition and the fallen race that we belong to.  God does not intend for us to remain this way.  Even now, the process of redemption and reconciliation is being carried out in our spirits and one day soon, in our bodies.

But until that day, our weakness will remain.  And in our weakness God grants us a miracle.  God gives us His strength, His presence and His power.  Instead of struggling against our weakness and our limitations God wants us to glory in His might and in our dependence on Him.  It is when we realize that only He is pure and good and that our best efforts can never match what He offers that we finally surrender and let Him be God in our lives.

In our sin, He offers us grace.  In our weakness, He offers us strength.  And in our nothingness, he offers us everything.