Transforming the Half-Empty Glass

We are all familiar with the proverbial imagery of whether the glass is half-empty or half-full, contrasting the pessimists against the optimists. Ranking us into those who see destruction and not the promise. Despite having walked with Jesus, the disciples fell into this half-empty mindset.

21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” [Matthew 16:21-23]

22 As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, 23 and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day. And they were greatly distressed. [Matthew 17:22-23]

Peter and the others only saw with the eyes of the world, a world in which death is well known. Peter rebuked Jesus for foretelling His death and all the disciples were greatly distressed. They were so focused on the destructive, half-empty glass that they completely missed the miraculous, only of God, fully-full, not just half-full, promise “He will be raised on the third day.”

I admit that for many years I was a half-empty glass person. If one thing went wrong in my life or I looked at the conflicts and horrors of the world, I concluded that just about everything else would also go wrong. I clearly heard “in the world you will have tribulation“. But just as the disciples overlooked Jesus saying He would be raised, I did not hear Him complete John 16:33 with the words “take heart; I have overcome the world.” Perhaps my half-empty glass viewpoint came from years in churches that either focused on salvation as the means to a future heavenly reward and nothing more, or ones that said little about sin and the need for salvation. In both cases, there was little to transform my life now.

But then as I looked deeper into Scripture, I learned there was so much more than either of those types of churches were teaching. I learned that Christ lives in me.

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. [Galatians 2:20]

I learned that it is God who is transforming me, not my efforts.

17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. [2 Corinthians 3:17-18]

I learned that God has direction and purpose for me.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. [Ephesians 2:8-10]

And I learned that as I live by the Spirit of Christ in me, my life becomes filled with the fruit of the Spirit.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. [Galatians 5:16, 22-23]

In seeing salvation only as a distant reward and life now as suffering that cannot be overcome, I was caught up in a pessimistic, half-empty glass mentality. As God revealed Himself to me, I discovered Christ is alive and living in me and has made me a new creation. Not just a cover-up hiding the old underneath. Completely new,

“The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” [2 Corinthians 5:17] 

God chose to save me and God chooses to live with me and in me. God did not simply change my glass from half-empty to half-full. In the midst of the sufferings that are inevitably a part of this fallen world, with His everlasting loving grace upon grace, God transformed my glass from half-empty to overflowing.

Praise the Lord!

Advertisements

Sacred Relationships

Okay, we can all agree that relationships are rewarding and fulfilling, and messy. But sacred? Isn’t sacred reserved for God and the spiritual realm?

But when we start seeing the sacred in all of our relationships there is profound change. It starts with our relationship with God. Our first and most important relationship is the one we have with God, through Jesus Christ. In receiving Jesus – believing in Him to the breadth and depth of cleaving to and fully entrusting our lives to Him – our hearts are changed, and thereby, so are our relationships.

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” – Galations 4:6

It is in fully surrendering ourselves – our plans, our desires, our selfishness, our brokenness – to God that we enter into the fullness of God.  We bear the fruit of love because we are new creations controlled by the love of Christ.

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:14-17

As my relationship with God grows more intimate and deeper, so will my relationships with people. It’s the Holy Spirit who enables me to be more forgiving of others and myself, to seek how I can give to others instead of take,  and to have a listening heart and be open in return. As I ask God to be the center of my relationships, both the rewarding and the messy ones, they become sacred and, in love, bound together in perfect harmony.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,
13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.

14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. – Colossians 3:12-14

 

New Beginning

This is the season of New Year’s resolutions and contemplating new beginnings. I admit that living in a northern state it can hard to think of new beginnings in the dead of winter. I’d rather be wrapped in a blanket with a cup of hot cocoa and reading a 19th century novel. New beginnings are for spring, not now.

But then the Holy Spirit draws my attention to who began His earthly life in very humble surroundings in this “dead” season of winter. Jesus. The author and perfecter of the greatest new beginning we can imagine.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Because Christ was raised from the dead, we walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4). We have put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24).

I can resolve to eat better, exercise more, spend less, work harder. But, despite my good intentions, all those resolutions quickly fail when they depend on my own efforts. As much as I would like to think otherwise, I don’t have it in me to create new beginnings. It is because of Jesus that my life changes. It is in that Christ Child, humbly born in the dead of winter, who later willingly was crucified to redeem us from our sins, and who gloriously resurrected to overcome death that resolutions are surpassed by transformation into new life.

 

 

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

Related image

13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. … They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David. (1) There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit. (2) 

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. (3) 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (4)

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (5)

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (6) 

 

(1) Ruth 4:13, 17
(2) Isaiah 11:1
(3) Luke 1:26-35
(4) Matthew 1:22-23
(5) Luke 2:7-14
(6) Isaiah 9:6-7

The Challenge of Believing Who God Says I Am

Why is it so hard for us to believe that God says we are worthy of His love? We’ve all heard: “You are _____ or you have to be _____.” with many  words to fill in those blanks. We’ve all heard those proclamations that are meant to define us and tell us whether or not we are worthy.

But are those proclamations true? How do we separate the true ones from the lies? We discover truth by asking “Who told you that?”

The world may say “I have to be perfect.” That I have to do all that it takes to be considered perfect. It’s no longer “I” when I believe that

by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made whole. – Hebrews 10:14

My futile quest for the world’s lie changes when I pursue Jesus in praise and thankfulness for His one sacrifice of redemption instead of perfection.

I may compare myself to others, wishing I were as accomplished in various ways as someone else. Comparison ends when I see that I am unique and cherished and loved because I am Christ’s and He lives in me and I in Him.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

I may be fearful and insecure in thinking I have nothing to offer, or prideful and selfish in thinking the world owes me its recognition. I find humility in knowing that it is not in myself but in Christ that

I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13.

My reluctance to step out to serve God and His people ends when I remember that

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. – 2 Timothy 1:7

Why is it so hard for us to believe that God says we are worthy of His love? It’s so hard because we are not asking “Who told you that?”. When the answer is the world and people around us who put themselves and their own opinions above God, then we are listening to the lies of the Enemy.

But when the answer to “Who told you that?” is God Himself speaking to us through Scripture and prayer and those He has sent into our lives, then we find truth. We find the truth that we are worthy because He has made us worthy.

In this Advent season, as we remember the Christ who fully entered our lives as a baby born in Bethlehem and anticipate the Christ who will come again in glory, we find the truth that we are worthy because

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness,
through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence – 2 Peter 1:3

 

Who Am I? – I Am Who God Says I Am

“Who am I?” is a question we ask ourselves often, especially as we look for the world’s definition. Am I defined by my family role – mother, father, daughter, son, married, divorced, widowed, single? Am I defined by my job title – clerk, manager, company president, entrepreneur? Am I defined by my societal role – introvert, extrovert, activist, bystander?

“Who am I?” As I look to the world, the answer can vary with my circumstances, the stages of my life, the sufficiency of my performance and accomplishments, and with the expectations the world has for me. This kind of definition can even extend to who I think I am, or am told I am, in relation to God. Even in that relationship I can become entrapped in performance and expectations. I can hesitate to follow God, thinking I first have to be whole enough, healed enough, sufficient enough in myself. In other words, after I’m “fixed” then God can use me.

How I answer “who am I?” can directly affect whether I believe God and trust that He has purpose for my life, even in my brokenness.

God says I am “fearfully and wonderfully made”, I am one of His wonderful works.

13 For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well. – Psalm 139: 13-14

God says I am redeemed.

13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. – Colossians 1:13-14

11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent
(not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)
 12 he entered once for all into the holy places,
not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. – Hebrews 9:11-12

God says I am chosen.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. – Ephesians 1:3-4

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession,
that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. – 1 Peter 2:9

God says I am alive with new life.

11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. – Romans 6:11

11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life
to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. – Romans 8:11

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved – Ephesians 2:4-5

God says I am free.

31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,
the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:22-23

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. – Galatians 5:1

God says I am loved.

and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. -Romans 5:5

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:35-39

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. – 1 John 3:16

19 We love because he first loved us. – 1 John 4:19

The world cannot tell me who I am. The only true answer to “who am I?” is to seek and believe who God says I am. Then I know who I am and have God’s peace in the answer.

How to Diagnose Your Discouragement

Discouragement can be a persistent enemy distracting us from God and His love.

Christine Hoover guides us to look at what is actually happening in our discouragement, how we are responding, and what is God’s truth in her blog post How to Diagnose Your Discouragement

Source: Grace Covers Me

 

Praying with Nature: God Who Creates

I gaze through the window into your creation, O Lord.
From the tiniest blade of grass along the path, up the hillside covered in vegetation, to the stately trees, I see your hand.
Each plant seeks the sun and dances in the breeze.
Just as these plants and sun and wind are all from you and connected to you, you are ever present in me, creating me to be one with you.
You continue to be Barukh ata Adonai – God, the Lord God who creates.

View from Chapel Window at Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh Monastery

Emerging from the Wilderness

For several months I was lost in a spiritual wilderness. Lost due to my own turning away from God and to the world. Lost because I put more credibility than deserved in the expectations I placed upon myself and those placed upon me by others. Lost because I interpreted those expectations as coming from God. I was believing that, although I was saved, I still had to prove I was worthy. I was thinking that if I truly believed in Christ’s presence in my life, then I’d be able to shrug off the trials of life. I was either pretending that everything was fine or experiencing guilt and shame when pretending became too difficult.

Well-meaning friends tried to help me emerge from that wilderness. But their advice and correction did little to dispel the darkness. To heal from the cycle of expectations, pretense, and shame I had to own the pain. I had to go deep into prayers of lament. Lament is deeply honest, authentic crying out to God and inviting Him to enter our pain. God always hears lament. But lament demands faith and patience to wait for answers that come in God’s way and God’s time. Yet He always answers.

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep. – Psalm 121:1-4

Now lament is messy and uncomfortable. It runs counter to the “cheerful Christian” persona that we want to project and others prefer to see. Lament seeks quiet, encouraging presence from others, not advice or rebuke. Lament is not to be confused with complaint. Complaint stirs up bitterness, resentment, blame, and solutions dependent on our own abilities. Satan wants us to stay stuck in the despair of complaint, and that’s where I was stuck until I understood the Biblical foundation of lament and embraced the power of its prayer.

Throughout the Psalms, David lamented the sorrow and challenges brought about both by his own sins and by his circumstances.

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
    consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
    my King and my God,
    for to you do I pray. – Psalm 5:1-2

I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?” – Psalm 42:9-10

The Prophets called for Israel to lament its turning away from the One True God to the false gods of their pagan neighbors.

Put on sackcloth and lament, O priests;
    wail, O ministers of the altar.
Go in, pass the night in sackcloth,
    O ministers of my God!
Because grain offering and drink offering
    are withheld from the house of your God.

14 Consecrate a fast;
    call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
    and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
    and cry out to the Lord. – Joel 1:13-14

Jesus lamented Israel’s disbelief.

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!
How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
 – Matthew 23:37

And Jesus lamented while perfectly obeying the Father’s will as He sacrificed Himself to save us from the death we deserved.

39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me – Matthew 26:39a

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, 
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Matthew 27:46

Through lament I learned to release the emotions and expectations based on what was untrue. I lamented my own failings and the offenses of others, and in doing so, I found the compassion to choose to forgive myself and others.  I had thought it was up to me to will myself out of the wilderness by pushing hurt aside. Then I discovered that by my going deeper into the pain, God with me, carrying me out of the darkness.

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you. – Isaiah 43:1-2

It took going through lament to experience and know God and to fully discover my identity in Him. Lament is not a dead-end. Through lament I learned to rest in the Savior’s arms and surrender to the Father’s healing. It’s in that journey of lament that my heart and mind are renewed and I praise and glorify God.