The Transformed Life!

I knew a guy… (I’ll leave him nameless to protect his reputation)… A real “skunk” of a person (“stinker” sounds too mild for his behavior)… Hyper assertive, conniving, sensual, dishonest, self-occupied (and I could go on)… You know someone like this too?

And then he met Jesus – heard the gospel, believed it, and turned his life over to the Lord!  He immediately changed (especially his attitudes – he desired to change!  He wanted to please God!).  He had some challenges – he gave into some temptations – He stumbled and fell a few times; but he hung with God’s people, wanted to live for God, and persisted with patience… never gave up or gave in!

And today?  His life is a great testimony of what God’s love, grace and power can do!  Not the “self-made man by any means – but on the other hand a “case study” in what God’s power and presence can do in a life “sold out” to the Lord and committed to following Jesus!

Thought about my friend as I read Apostle Paul’s words to Pastor Titus today… In fact, I jotted these words in the margin of my journaling Bible… “OH, THE TRANSFORMED LIFE!  NOT SELF-TRANSFORMED – BUT ENGAGED!  THE TRANSFORMATION – NOT EARNED, BUT THE OUTWORKING OF GOD’S GRACE IN A WILLING LIFE!”

Oh… and the passage that prompted that reflection?

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people…” (The picture of a life changed by God’s grace!)

Then a description of what these believers once were… “For we ourselves were once foolish disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.”

But then a life-changing encounter with Christ… “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not by works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life…”

And then an exhortation to personal, daily engagement – depending on God’s grace… “The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things:  Those who have believed in God should be careful to devote themselves to good works.  These things are excellent and profitable for God’s people!”  (Scripture taken from Titus 3:1-8)

Sure am glad that my friend found Jesus and followed Him!  Sure and glad I did too!

How We View Problems Really Matters!

When something goes wrong or someone is suffering for some reason our inclination seems to be to blame someone or something for the problem.  We look for a “culprit”!  Who failed here, that this person is suffering or that thing we are observing is not right…

There’s a story like that in the Bible…  A man was blind from birth.  The disciples saw him and asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  After all, it had to be someone’s fault… there had to be something that caused this problem… someone or something had to be to blame!

The answer Jesus gave to his followers that day is so challenging!  Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God might be displayed in him!”  Then Jesus healed the man. (John 9:1-7)

Now this question came to mind during “coffee with the Lord” this morning as I read this passage… What if I stopped looking for someone or something to blame when things were not right – when there was a problem, a crisis or an issue – and began to see those “not right” things as “GOD-OPPORTUNITIES” … in other words, “This happened that the works of God might be displayed!”  I have a feeling difficulties would “morph” into “adventures with God – challenges would become opportunities for faith – problems would begin to result in miracles!  WHAT A CONCEPT!  SEEING PROBLEMS AND DIFFICULTIES AS GOD-OPPORTUNITIES!  I’m going to give it a try!

What Made Solomon’s Temple God’s Temple?

1 Kings 5-6 in the Bible are dedicated to a description of Solomon building the temple.  The Jewish temple – more than that…“God’s temple!”  It was beautifully furnished and lavishly prepared – read the description of it in these two chapters.  But it certainly was not a place where all of Israel could gather for worship at one time – not what we think of as a “house of worship” (it wasn’t large enough for that, being only about 90 feet long and 30 feet wide).  It was rather a place for sacrifice and a place where the Living God manifested His presence among His people.

Now there is a very important lesson to be learned from that fact, it seems to me!  We build “houses of worship” – buildings dedicated to religious purposes.  In some cases we even have the audacity to call them “temples!”  It seems to me, however, if the presence of the Living God is not manifest in them – if He is not present in a very real way – if God’s presence is not sensed in those structures, they are simply “bricks and mortar” – simply another building.

It’s interesting to me that embedded in the very middle of the description of the temple’s construction in 1 Kings 5-6 you have this very significant brief paragraph…

“Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, ‘Concerning this house that you are building… If you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I  spoke to David your father.  And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel!’” (1 Kings 6:11-13)

Did you pick up on it?  What made the “temple” that Solomon was building a “Temple”?  The Presence of the Living God!  And what brought the Presence of God?  The obedient, devoted lifestyle of God’s people!

Listen, when we gather together for worship… wherever that may be, I want the Presence of the Living God to be manifest – to be present – to be sensed… Don’t you?!  Oh may we live in such a way that these two New Testament verses can be fulfilled among us…

“For where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I among them!” (Jesus speaking in Matthew 18:20)

And then these words of Apostle Paul to a bunch of Gentile believers… “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord!  In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit!”  (Ephesians 2:19–22)

O God, may it be so… may it be so!!

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