devotion, Previously Published

the power to change

Text: Ephesians 2: 13.

Arthur stepped out of the bus in Kingston, Ontario, blending into the crowds, looking like everyone else. One would think he were perhaps a salesman or a grandfather coming to visit his family. But Arthur was not like everybody else. Arthur had just been released from prison. He had been in prison since he was 11; now he was 53.

No prison seemed capable of breaking Arthur’s spirit or reforming his behavior. Of the 42 years in prison, 24 years he spent in solitary confinement, 17 months on death row, and 31 months in Devil’s Island, chained by his neck like an animal, confined to a 5 x 7 foot cell. He was known for the riots he started, for breaking a guard’s arm, another’s collar bone, and being responsible for the death of the sheriff. In one prison, he stole 40 pounds of cyanide with the intention of poisoning the entire prison staff.

All who knew him had lost all hope. One day a preacher, accompanied by his 14-year-old son Tim, came to visit the inmates. While following his father down the row of cells, Tim, for some unexplainable reason, paused by Arthur’s cell, to smile and wink. Arthur called Tim back to the cell and began to verbally abuse him, calling him everything he could think of. Tim broke down in tears, but he stood his ground. Finally he simply said to Arthur, “I love you.”

For the next seven years, Tim regularly wrote to Arthur and prayed for him until Arthur finally felt the love of Tim and the love of God. Arthur said later, “That was the first time in all of my life anyone had ever told me that. Every letter was stained with his tears. I couldn’t take it anymore. I got on my knees and came to the Lord.” It was a miracle. A hate-filled, violent heart was transformed into a heart of love and grace.

So here he was, stepping out of the bus, stepping into the world. He was released from prison, released from the power of sin. He was now a changed man, a new creature. His body was old, he was dying of cancer; but he was new and alive in Christ. He now had a purpose. He now had a story to tell. He had found the Power to change, he had found the grace of God.

Acknowledge the Power to change. The Power to change is found on the cross. Knowing the story of the cross only makes you a good Bible student. There’s more to the cross than its place in history. The personal application of the cross in your life gives you access to a Power that defies all other. On the cross, Jesus overcame sin for you. Acknowledge the awesome power of Jesus’ death! And accept the free gift of salvation

Claim the Power to change. The Power to change is yours for the asking. No trick questions. No obstacle race. There are only two pre-requisites: You must believe in the Power to change and you must recognize your need for the Power. That’s it. It is yours. Why wait? Claim it today! And see the difference you make.

Share the Power to change. Good news is to be shared. The bubbling joyousness cannot be contained in your heart. The sheer force of the Power will explode through you for all to see. Fascinated by the new creature you now are, doors will open, opportunities will come your way–opportunities to tell the world of the Power that can also be theirs.

Only by beholding the Christ on the cross, can you be changed. When you accept God’s free gift of salvation, the Power to change, you will start a catalytic reaction! When others see you transformed, reflecting the Christ who rules your heart, they will want to know more.

“By beholding we are to become changed; and as we meditate upon the perfections of the divine Model, we shall desire to become wholly transformed, and renewed in the image of His purity. It is by faith in the Son of God that transformation takes place in the character, and the child of wrath becomes the child of God. He passes from death unto life; he becomes spiritual and discerns spiritual things. The wisdom of God enlightens his mind, and he beholds wondrous things out of His law. As a man is converted by the truth, the work of transformation of character goes on. He has an increased measure of understanding. In becoming a man of obedience to God, he has the mind of Christ, and the will of God becomes his will.”–Selected Messages, Book 1, p 338.

How does being united with Christ through His death change your relationship to sin?

In what practical sense is sin no longer your master even though you may still commit specific sins?

What makes it possible for you to live a new life?

What are the symptoms when you live in slavery to sin?

How does God help a person discard old habits and tendencies?

How does being under grace change you and affect the way others see you?

Spiritual Musings

the back page God

If the family is too small for a lamb, then share it with a close neighbor. Exodus 12:4

As it is with most things, it’s the sensational side of God that makes the headlines. Like when He parted the Red Sea or when he asked little David to fight Goliath or when he sent down a chariot to whisk Elijah into heaven. It’s not that I don’t like these stories, but sometimes I feel they shroud my God in an awesome, holy glow that make me feel unworthy and hesitant in His presence.

That’s why my favorite stories are the obscure ones, the ones that take just a verse or two to tell, those that make the back page and not the headlines. These brief stories speak to me of a Father God, someone who is sensitive, understanding and extremely reasonable. Such is the story told in the first few verses of Exodus 12–It’s time for the last plague, the death of the first born. The only way to escape death is to sacrifice a lamb and smear its blood on the door post.

I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a single Hebrew family that was going to risk losing a child. Every family is determined to get a lamb, no matter the cost. One lamb per family was not much of God to ask on the eve of their freedom.

They are willing, but God makes a concession–God takes into account that one lamb per family may be too expensive for some, that a whole roasted lamb may result in wasted food. So this mighty awesome God of mine, who is in the middle of delivering an entire nation out of slavery, takes some time out to pay attention to something comparatively insignificant. And He tells the people to share a lamb if needed.

God makes time for the little things. He’s concerned about my food budget, my  dying garden, my bulging waist. I love that my God doesn’t expect me to just suck it up and look forward to the Second Coming. No, He sends me His Holy Spirit to help me in the mundane human activities too.

Personal Ramblings, Spiritual Musings

knowing God

For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways. Isaiah 58:2

Sky was about four. It was sometime between midnight and when the alarm goes off.

I felt her shake me awake: Mommy wake up, I have a very important question.  Mumbling that we could discuss it in the morning I turned over. But she wouldn’t stop. Persisting that it was important she continued to shake me, poke me, and pull my hair.  I finally sat up.

Does God have a beard? My blank, you-woke-me-up-for-a-ridiculous-question look caused her to repeat her question slower and louder.

Why do you need to know and why do you need to discuss this in the middle of the night? I asked trying to mask my irritation with random stroking of her hair. She replied, Because I don’t like beards and if God has one I need to get used to it. I need to start right now.

If I were half as preoccupied as Sky was to get to know Jesus!