From Broken-down to Beautiful

See the source image

The white car sat forlornly on the side of the road, pushed out to the edge of the property. The tires were missing and its front end was buckled from some sort of impact. I passed it every morning on my way to work – it’s wasn’t a pretty sight. That is until one midsummer morning when I noticed that green vines were beginning to curl out from the crumpled hood and around the back end. Day by day the vines progressed taking over more and more of the broken-down car. Then came the flowers – bright blue blooms swarming over the vines and covering the car until it became a mound of morning glories. That old broken-down wreck was now a beautiful sight to behold. Every morning as I passed that spot, I looked over at the lovely mound of flowers, their faces lifted to the sun and I smiled.

Your life may feel like a wreck today. It may be a series of circumstances you couldn’t control or choices you made yourself, but there you sit – broken, pushed aside, going nowhere. Oh, my friend, God specializes in bringing beauty from ashes – (Isaiah 61:3). I know it’s true because He did it for me. He took this broken-down woman with nothing to offer but pain and foolishness and made my life “a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor” (61:3b). He took on all my sin and shame and gave me His holiness. He washed me clean, dressed me in robes of righteousness, and gave my life meaning, hope, peace, and Joy.

If you will allow Him, He will do the same for you. He will cover you with the precious, blood of His Son Jesus and His love will turn your broken-down life into a garden of splendor – a thing of beauty.  And every time you look at yourself you’ll smile at what God has done.

That’s Not Who I Am Anymore

See the source image

Some time ago I ran across some old photos of myself.  I laid them out in the progression of ages from about 3 to my high school years, watching myself grow taller, with a variety of hairstyles and some really strange fashion sense.  I saw something else. Somewhere between 10 and 15, the girl in those photos took on a dark demeanor and I remembered my past – things that had been done to me, and things I did to myself..  Glancing up into the mirror on my dresser, I thought how much I physically looked like the girl in the pictures, but I no longer recognized those dark eyes. God said, “That is because that’s not who you are anymore. Now you are mine.”

In Ephesians 5:8, Paul said, “You were once darkness…”  Then he gives the contrast: “but now…you are light in the Lord.”  Like painting a before and after portrait he said,  “You are not who you once were.  Now you are in Christ.”

One of Satan’s favorite ploys is to assault us with our past, to tell us that we will always be who we were and there is no point in trying to resist those old familiar sins.  “You know deep down, you still want it.  You haven’t changed. You are bound to your past.  You are bound to me.”  But if you belong to Jesus Christ, you are free from your past. You are a child of light, purified from all your sins (1 John 1: 7).  Where you were once held captive to sin, you are now bound up in God’s love. You have the power to say no to sin.

In Philippians 3:13, Paul gives us the secret to walking in our new identity when he says, “one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on…”  We can forget what is behind because “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)” 

Beloved, I want so much for you to understand that because Jesus Christ has completely removed all your transgressions; you are a new creation in Christ, no longer bound to a painful, sinful past or those dark desires.  You have light in your eyes, and God’s love shines on your face.  Because you are not who you once were.  Now you are His.

That’s Not Who I Am Anymore

See the source image

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Live as children of the light.”  Ephesians 5:8

One of my responsibilities at work is to cover my bosses’ classes from time to time when he must be away.  He had to be out one day and we were talking about what I needed to do for his class as “the sub.” We laughed as I recalled some mischief I pulled on substitute teachers in the past and then I said, “That was before Jesus.  I don’t do that stuff now.”

Paul had that same message.  In Romans 6 when he talked about the difference between who we were before Jesus and who we are now.  Before Christ, we were dead to righteousness and alive to sin.  We “used to offer the parts of [our] body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness,” (v. 19).  Throughout his letters, he describes some of the things in which we indulged in our pre-Christ state.  Things you would expect like murder, sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, hatred, anger, drunkenness, selfishness, lying, stealing, envy, greed, obscenity, and things you might not expect like foolish talk, coarse joking, and gossip.  Paul said that is who we were.

But if you are in Christ, that’s not who you are anymore. Let me say that again: YOU ARE NOT THAT SINFUL PERSON ANY MORE.  Paul said, “But now you have been set free from sin” (Romans 6:22).  But now, you are a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), dead to sin and alive to righteousness.  You are not bound to obey your old sinful desires and the temptations of the world. You can leave those sinful actions behind and live for Jesus.  You are not who you once were.  I don’t know about you but that gives me tremendous hope.

When those old familiar desires rise up and the enemy dangles that favorite temptation before you, you can say – “I don’t do that now.” And you can walk away.  You really can Beloved. Because that’s not who you are anymore.

But I Don’t Feel Forgiven

 

Image result for little girl with purse

Through many years of serving in women’s ministry, the most oft-repeated statement I hear is: “I just can’t forgive myself.” The weight of shame and the burden of past sins and failures seems to be the most popular accessory for Christian women today. What if I told you that you didn’t have to carry that over-stuffed bag around anymore? Sweet friend, if you have accepted Christ as your Savior, the Lord says: “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). If God doesn’t remember your sins, why do you need to?

That fashionable bag of shame you are carrying is empty of all your sins. Oh, there is still a heavy weight there, but it is not your sin – it is stones of false guilt put there by the enemy – the accuser who wants you to feel the weight of a sin that no longer exists. But you say, “I don’t feel forgiven.” Here is where you are going to put faith in action.

I want you to grab 2 pens – one of them with red ink, and go to an empty page in the back of your Bible. One by one, take out those stones from the bag – yes, your sexual promiscuity, the abortion, the affair, the failed marriage, the crime you committed, the stupid thing you can’t believe you did – and write it down. Now beside every entry write in red ink “1 John 1:9.” This verse declares, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Confess it, thank God for His forgiveness and claim it as a truth, not just a feeling. Then when the enemy tries to throw that rock back in your bag, point to your written confirmation of freedom and own what Jesus did for you.

Here’s the bottom line my friend: you don’t have to forgive yourself. God has already forgiven you through Jesus’ sacrifice. There is nothing left to forgive. Now pick up your empty bag, fill it with the joy of freedom in Christ and claim the new life you have been given.

My Past is not My Future Anymore

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”  2 Corinthians 5:17

I’ve been reading recently through the genealogical records of 1 Chronicles of the sons of Israel. I know, that’s pretty dry stuff – who begat who and thus-and-so is the son of so-and-so. Most people I know who try to read through the Bible end up skipping the first 9 chapters of this book. But I’ve read the Bible enough times to begin to pick out some names I’ve run across before and to see things I’ve never noticed in these passages.

Stick with me for a little Bible study lesson before we get to the application.

Genealogy is very important in the eastern cultures, even today. This is very different from the western culture with our sense of independence. While there is inheritance and some businesses that are passed down through generations, the west does not value the generation interconnectedness of the east. Land rights, position and particularly religious authority are traced back many, many generations. When the Israelites returned to Jerusalem 70 years after the Babylonian captivity, genealogical records ensured the rights of property and position. This was especially important for the Levites – or descendants of Jacob’s son Levi, the temple servants who were assigned their position and work by these records. If a Levite could not prove by the genealogical record that they had rights to a position in the temple, they were not permitted to serve.

Each one of Jacob/Israel’s sons is listed along with the list of many of his descendants up to the fall of Jerusalem.   As I read through these names I saw a trend emerge. Much like the Levites, many of the ancestral lines held certain positions for generations.   One that caught my attention was the line of Issachar, another of Jacob’s sons. If you have the time and inclination, read the 2nd chapter of Numbers where the tribes of Israel are arranged around the tabernacle in their camp and in their order of travel. Judah was the royal tribe and they were “front and center” in the arrangement. They were edged by the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun, who were charged with protecting the royal tribe, from which King David and King Jesus would come. These two tribes took their charge very seriously. For all the years of wilderness wandering and awaiting their settlement in the Promised Land, Issachar and Zebulun stood watch over Judah. The genealogical listing in 1 Chronicles highlights “the mighty men of valor” and the number of “men ready for battle” in the record of Issachar (1 Ch. 7:4-5). 1 Chronicles 12:33 says 50,000 “of the sons of Zebulun” were in David’s mighty army. Here’s the point: the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun were still faithful to their God-given charge more than 900 years after it was first issued. Almost a millennium later, the sons of the sons of the sons were at their post, protecting the king.

I love that. I love a strong, godly heritage that continues on through the generations. I think of the family of Billy Graham, and his many children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren who serve in ministry. I know of many families who have multi-generational pastors, missionaries and leaders in ministry. I love to see several generations crowded together on the church pew every Sunday. A godly heritage is a precious thing.

But maybe that is not your heritage. Maybe you don’t have a lineage of preachers and missionaries and godly prayer warriors. Maybe your family tree, like mine produced a lot of bad fruit, and more than a few nuts. I remember hearing my grandmother talking about her grandfather who was a cattle rustler, and a brother who spent more time in jail than at home. Maybe your family has a sinful “legacy” like mine does, and you can trace, not the influence of God, but that of evil through your family. Does that mean that you are destined to follow your family’s path? Not if God has anything to say about it.

Our key verse is a promise that when we come to Christ, we have a whole new story, all our own yet to be written by “the Author of our faith,” Jesus (Heb. 12:2). Your past and your family’s past are no longer the story of your life. If you are in Christ you are “a new creation,” and what you will become is up to God not your past, your parents, grandparents or anyone else. For many years I fell victim to the sinful thread that ran through my family. It was “my destiny,” like those before me. But God said “NO.” Just as He did for so many before me, God gave me a new name, a new lineage, and a new future. I am now a child of God and my family lineage is that of Jesus Christ and all the saints who have gone before me (Hebrews 11). This is the heritage I stand on today. This is the history of my family: godliness, obedience, endurance, faithfulness, righteousness, holiness and blessedness. When the enemy tells me who I was and what my “destiny” is, I tell him that I am God’s daughter and my future is secure in Christ, and his destiny is destruction.

Dear friend, don’t stand back believing the lie that you can’t rise above the past. Take God at His Word and grab hold of the new life and the new destiny that awaits you in Jesus Christ.

Holy Father, thank you for giving me a new life, a new name, and a new destiny. Thank you for the new lineage of godliness that is mine as Your child. Give me courage to walk forward and leave the past behind me. Amen.