Transforming in a Time of Conforming

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez

The pressure! Do you feel it? It’s like a vise. Coming at us from every side. Pressing. Squeezing.

There’s only one way out! The “world” wants us as believers to conform to it’s standard. Melt us into it’s world-view. Blend in and be like everyone else.

Thankfully, Jesus teaches us to be transformed, not to conform. How do we do that?

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
— Romans 12:2 ESV

We are transformed by the renewing of our mind. So how do you renew your mind? Through the Word of God. The Word of God is Jesus (the Living Word) and Scripture (the written Word).

First, we must be saved, born again. Being a believer in Jesus is so much more than to “believe” He exists. It’s confessing you’re a sinner, asking Him to forgive your sin and trusting that He will save you. Then you wholeheartedly follow Him. That means not following your own wants and desires, but obediently doing His will.

In today’s society, there are self-help books everywhere! In secular reading and in the Christian realm. To be better, just do this or that. God didn’t save us to be better, He saved us to be a new creation! Hallelujah! And the greatest news about that is that we don’t do that on our own - He does it! Whew! My only responsibility in the process is to surrender to Him and be obedient. He does all the transforming! The results of our transformation are up to Him. Isn’t that great news!?

That leads us to the second step. Surrender. To surrender is to submit to another’s authority. Jesus teaches that we are to die to ourselves and take up our cross - that’s surrender. Putting our own wants and desires aside and obediently following Him. Jesus lived a suffering life on this earth. So when you follow Him, you should expect some suffering.

Think of it this way, if you were to find a precious metal or stone in the earth you would have to heat that metal until all the dross was burned away or chip off all the parts attached to the stone that were not pure. If we think about that in relation to our lives, it is a painful process; often accomplished by suffering.

Part of surrender is obedience. When we submit to authority, we obey the rules, guidelines and laws set before us. The time for kicking and screaming is over. We surrendered so now we are to obey willingly.

God, not your self-effort, is the source of transformation. www.bsfinternational.org

The above quote really spoke to me in my Bible study this week. We have been studying Solomon and his proverbs. The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord. It is Jesus Christ who changes, transforms us. Not self-help books, not sheer will and determination, but Jesus.

If you’ve known me throughout my lifetime, you can easily see the transformation that Jesus has done in my life. Every day He is changing me even more. Sometimes the process is slow and difficult, but as I surrender and am obedient, He proves true in His transformation power!

Will you be transformed today through Jesus? He is always ready to forgive when you confess and ask. He will happily make you a new creation. Just trust Him!

The Ultimate Love Letter

Photo by Aaron Burden

Photo by Aaron Burden

Does this well-worn Bible remind you of yours or one of your parents or grandparents’ Bible?

Bear with me for a few minutes. Think back to your “sweetheart” days. Remember love letters? How many times did you read a love letter from your sweetheart? I read them until they were totally worn out!

I’m not talking about elementary school love letters, but you can certainly think of those. As children, we read and re-read those cute little letters. But what about those from your sweetheart when one of you were away?

I’m reminded of my parents when I think of love letters. My parents met when my father was in for a brief few days from the Navy during WWII. They courted via letters. All of which were read by military personnel before getting to my mother. Every single letter had some things marked out just in case that phrase could alert the enemy about a particular mission. Anyway, I digress. After a lot of letters and maybe a visit or two, my Mom graduated from high school early in the afternoon, married my Dad that evening and caught a midnight train to start their life together. How romantic!

Hearing that brief story sounds very romantic. But my parents would tell you it was HARD. Worth it, but hard. Just after they got sent up in their new little home, Dad shipped out. My sixteen year old mother was alone. My dad was at war. I can only imagine how important the love letters they share were to them!

I remember my own love letters when I was in high school. I went on a school trip for a week or two. My sweetheart sent me some love letters. By the time I returned home I had nearly memorized them all because I read them so much. (FYI - same sweetheart I married!)

Knowing how much those letters meant, how much more should the “Ultimate Love Letter” mean to us? God wrote an entire book expressing His love for us. We should read it so much we practically have it memorized!

But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:24 NIV

As I consider what great things the Lord has done for me, I’m in awe of His love, mercy and grace! He loves us unconditionally! His love letter tells us that He loves us just like we are! After all, He made us. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more AND there is nothing we can do to make God love us less. He. Loves. You.

This week, begin again reading the Ultimate Love Letter. Read it and read it some more. Read it until you practically have it memorized! Tell me in the comments below one or ten things that you love most about “The Ultimate Love Letter”.

Dormant Life in the Dead of Winter

Photo by Aaron Wilson

Photo by Aaron Wilson

According to the dictionary, dormant means alive but not actively growing or temporarily inactive.

We all need times of being temporarily inactive. This allows us time to rest and rejuvenate. However, alive but not actively growing is not so good if for extended time periods. We know that when we are not moving forward, we are falling behind. Again, time for rest and rejuvenation is needed and a must, but to stay in an inactive state that leaves us alive but not actively growing can become detrimental to our state of well-being.

A state of being is more than just one’s mindset. It involves our physical, mental, emotion and spiritual health. We require rest for an optimal state of well-being. But to stop actively growing crushes our state of well-being.

Winter months, as depicted in the photo above, demonstrates dormant life. Trees still stand, but are bare of their leaves (unless an evergreen tree). Flowers “die” back to their roots. Nature demonstrates life that is temporarily inactive. God created nature this way - time for nature to rest and rejuvenate.

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

John 6:27

I don’t know where you are in your journey with Jesus Christ. Maybe you are in the spring; budding out in new growth; excited to bloom where you’re planted. Maybe you are in the summer; marching along in full force following your Saviour. Maybe you are in the autumn: feeling tired and losing some of your luster. Or maybe you are in the winter; dormant; alive but not actively growing; temporarily inactive. So is the cycle of life;

spring-

summer-

autumn-

winter-

spring…

No matter where you are in your journey. Jesus is LIFE and He came to give you rest so you can let your light shine in all seasons of life. Even if you find yourself dormant right now, remember that you still have LIFE in the dead of winter through Jesus.

Rest. Rejuvenate. Because dormant life in the dead of winter is still LIFE. So let THE LIFE restore your vigor to serve Him. Before you know it, you’ll “spring” into action once more!

Find Revolutionary Hope in the Book of Ruth

Photo by Joel Henry

Photo by Joel Henry

I wanted to look at just chapter one of Ruth for this post.

You can’t help but see Naomi’s side of things in this chapter. After all, Naomi and her family leave Israel due to a famine. They stay in Moab and Naomi’s husband dies. She and her sons stay there and the sons take Moabite wives. After ten years both sons die. The three women are left as childless widows. Finally, Naomi, feeling totally broken and abandoned by God, decides to go home. Both daughters-in-law tell Naomi that they will go back with her. Naomi tells them to go home as she cannot marry and have sons for them to marry. Orpah goes home. Ruth clings to Naomi and goes back with her.

Well, that’s a summary of chapter one and it certainly seems to be about Naomi and her family, but as I am often reminded, our salvation journey is not about us. We certainly benefit from our salvation, but it’s about Jesus getting the glory.

So let’s take a look at this same chapter from Ruth’s viewpoint:

  • Ruth sees a new family move to town

  • Ruth watches this family suffer a loss of the father

  • Ruth marries into this Jewish family

  • Ruth gains a new sister (in-law)

  • Both Ruth’s husband and her brother-in-law die after ten years

  • Ruth is just a devastated as her mother-in-law and sister-in-law (left as childless widows)

  • Ruth watches her sister-in-law, who professed her loyalty to Naomi, leave and go home

  • Ruth professes her loyalty to Naomi and Naomi’s God

  • Ruth leaves her family and country behind as she follows Naomi back to Israel

While Elimelech and Noami sinned by seeking refuge from the famine in the midst of God’s enemies, God used their time there to bring Ruth, a Gentile, into the Kingdom of God and into to lineage of Jesus! There Naomi was thinking that these hardships were all about her and yet, God was using them to bring Ruth to Himself for His glory.

I know that hope must have been difficult to see in the middle of the terrible hardship these people were enduring, BUT GOD is HOPE and is always ready to give us His HOPE which comes with His Salvation.

How have you seen God move in your life after you realized a situation wasn’t about you, but about God? Leave a comment below.