Galatians 3:2-4 (Message)
Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!
I am by no means an intellect or Bible scholar. I tend to jump around from translation to translation. I just love the Word of God and what it is doing in my life as His Spirit writes it on my heart. Whenever I read the Message version, it tends to make me laugh. It is okay to respond to the Word of God and His Presence with laughter. God delights in us and it is about time we began to delight in Him, too. For more than two years our life has been turned upside down by our son’s repeated diagnoses of cancer. The Lord has brought him through each time magnificently. It is no less than miraculous considering the gravity of such an invasion in his body. The fourth time that he was diagnosed was by far the hardest. He looked good and felt good. Every other test and scan was clear. The doctor had deemed him in remission for now, that is until the PET scan revealed cancer in multiple places throughout his torso. I was on the phone in my office when she called to give me the news. We had been reveling in remission for less than 24 hours when the world came crashing down. It was near his heart, diaphragm and around his stomach. Radiation was no longer an option. Chemotherapy would be our best defense. But I had made a fatal error and let the guard down around my heart, so when the word “cancer” came it inflicted such a blow that it literally brought me to my knees. That’s when I realized that I was weak and I needed more strength. That’s also when I realized that although my faith remained true to the Lord, for a moment I had forgotten about hope. Hope is more valuable than I realized. It is the only thing of strength in the midst of a storm. It is not for special occasions or certain situations, but a way of life. Over the next six months from that day as I watched our son battle cancer for the fourth time, something inside me changed. As I grabbed hold of the concept of hope once more it was with renewed determination to never let it go again. It’s crazy to ever think that in any situation as a believer that God wants us to be in control in our weakened, sinful state. Righteousness is a learned behavior but an inherited trait. New life is a painful process that results in overwhelming and inexpressible joy. Hope is why in the midst of chaos, I can remain calm. In the midst of turmoil, I can still sing. It is the reason I can get up each day and live life despite the attack that we have been facing. My hope is born of the measure of faith that I have been given. (Romans 12:2) You have been given the same as Our Father is no respecter of persons and loves us all the same. The only way that we lose our hope is if we choose to give up. How many times before tragedy strikes our life are we willing to cling to Christ? Not many unfortunately to our own detriment. Now is the time to build your faith into confident hope so when that time comes when you feel like giving up – you will only hold on tighter.
Romans 4:16-18 (Message)
This is why the fulfillment of God’s promise depends entirely on trusting God and his way, and then simply embracing him and what he does. God’s promise arrives as pure gift. That’s the only way everyone can be sure to get in on it, those who keep the religious traditions and those who have never heard of them. For Abraham is father of us all. He is not our racial father—that’s reading the story backward. He is our faith father. We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do. And so he was made father of a multitude of peoples. God himself said to him, “You’re going to have a big family, Abraham!”
I do not like conflict. I hate to fight. I must resolve division because I cannot stand to see people at odds. This causes me to press the issue sometimes and that is not always a good thing and most certainly not a “God” thing. When I was very young, I remember a Sunday School talking about the power of our words and the injury inflicted on others. She told us that in the heat of the moment, people say what they really mean so mean what you say. Her words have lingered inside my heart and head over the years so when engaged in verbal confrontation I am at a total disadvantage. Most people will strike a death blow by saying things that they don’t really mean. Although I can bury you with the sheer quantity of my words, I cannot say things that I do not mean intentionally due to the impression left on my conscience by this Mighty Woman of God. So when pressed by the enemy with thoughts or whispers of our son’s demise, if I begin to argue back I will lose because he is out to steal, kill and destroy not only my son but my faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord, Healer, Deliverer and more. If he can just get me to believe his lies than I will have fear which destroys faith because it reveals doubt and distrust for God. The only thing that I have to hurl back at the enemy is the Word of God. It is the Truth. It is a two-edged sword that will cut the enemy’s lie leaving it lifeless on the ground with our garbage. Faith that has become confident hope is not subject to fear because it has already decided that the Word of God is true. Imagine how crazy everyone thought Abraham was when at 100 years of age, he was still calling himself the “father of many nations” because that is what God called him. He believed that God could make something out of nothing. He believed this not because his household was overflowing with children but because he saw the transformation of God in his own heart and mind. He had a made up mind that no one and nothing could change when it came to the Lord. He was absolutely and totally confident that God would deliver so he waited for him to come. Abraham is our ancestral father not by bloodline but by faith. He believed God and received the promise. He was adopted by God for his faith just as we are due to our faith in Jesus Christ. When we look at this Mighty Man of God, it is not to follow his family tree from Isaac on down but rather to know and understand that by faith we will have the promise of God. He is an example of becoming not only God’s Child but His Friend.
Our oldest daughter is twenty years old. She has grown into a precious, godly young woman. In the last couple of years since her high school graduation, our relationship has changed and developed more into a friendship. No longer does she need me to evaluate her every move and point her in the right direction, because she does it on her own. She has matured past childhood novelty into a smart young adult. I believe that faith is the learning stage of developing a relationship with the Lord. As we test the boundaries and parameters of His Great Love, it is our rebellious nature due to immaturity that tempts us to continual try to discover the position closest to the darkness. But when we decide to use our faith to develop confident hope, we move from Child of God to Friend of God, too. I love this idea. I love my daughter very much. She is engaged to be married. I know that in a very short time she will leave our home and build her own life. She will use the principals that she has been taught to create a foundation of life as they grow together, have children and walk out their life. I have full confidence that in doing so, we will never be far apart in spirit. She may be across town in body but we will always be connected in our heart and soul. Why? Because I love her and she is my friend. This is the kind of relationship that God wants with His Children and He gave His Only Son that we could have it. He put a measure of faith in us along with Eternity in our heart to guide us home, when we discover Jesus Christ and put that measure of faith in Him, His Spirit comes to lead us the rest of the way so we are never alone.
Romans 8:9-14 (Message)
But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won’t know what we’re talking about. But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells—even though you still experience all the limitations of sin—you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! So don’t you see that we don’t owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There’s nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life. God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!
The Plan of God for our life is so much greater than we see for our life. It is bigger, more massive and in depth than human understanding could ever comprehend. We are too busy trying to save our life to concentrate on our soul right now. We are given bodies affected by sin that are dying from the moment they are born. We race through this life trying to find satisfaction and contentment for this hunger burning inside of us thinking all the time that there has to be more than this. That is the voice of faith and eternity calling from deep within you and it will never be satiated with the things of this world. It is an appetite for the Lord that can only be appeased when faith turns to confident hope that allows us to see past the world in which we live and accept the fact that the only way to have all that God has promised is to trust Him more. Did you ever try to ride your bike with no hands? As a kid, I remember falling and skinning elbows and knees attempting to master this useless talent but when I really wanted to get somewhere though I but both hands on the handlebars and pedaled like crazy. Trying to please God with the things we do and tricks we learn as Christians is ridiculous, it’s kind of like kids doing chores on Christmas morning to earn gifts they have already been given or trying to be extra good that day. The gifts belong to them already so really all they can do is show appreciation in what they say and do. The Promises of God are the inheritance of His Children. You cannot earn them or coerce God to release them into your life. He has already given everything He has to you, all you must do is come to Him to get them.
When you asked Jesus Christ to be your Savior and Lord, God came to live inside of you. He is giving you the new life that was requested by reshaping and remolding you to become a receiver rather than rejecter of His Precious Promises and Blessings. Like clay in the potter’s hand, he presses and pulls to make you into something useful but doesn’t stop there because in God’s Eyes you are a masterpiece fashioned and formed with passion and love to be fit for a King. He is making something out of every nothing in your life. You are not insignificant but have an appointed placement in the Body of Jesus Christ. He went to prepare a place for you. He expects your arrival, heaving anticipating reunification so He makes everything ready for you. This begins in you because if there is no spiritual life inside of you than it is pointless. Spiritual life is born of the Spirit. The Spirit is given in exchange for your faith. The Spirit of God in return will produce confident hope that keeps your feet grounded and rooted in cultivated faith that secures you to the Word of God until it comes to pass. It doesn’t matter what is going on around you but rather what is happening inside of you as a direct result. People think such individuals are crazy because their response to the circumstances of life are unnatural as they hope in the supernatural, divine intervention of God to which they are entitled.
Romans 7:4-6 (Message)
So, my friends, this is something like what has taken place with you. When Christ died he took that entire rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving you free to “marry” a resurrection life and bear “offspring” of faith for God. For as long as we lived that old way of life, doing whatever we felt we could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed us in. And this made us all the more rebellious. In the end, all we had to show for it was miscarriages and stillbirths. But now that we’re no longer shackled to that domineering mate of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, we’re free to live a new life in the freedom of God.
Before my first child was born, I had a miscarriage. I had never experienced so much pain. It was not a physical pain but emotional one that rocked me to my core. I was not living a Christian life although I had been saved for many years. I determined in my heart that God was punishing me for wandering from Him and had taken this from me. I was so empty and broken. I held on to that fear throughout my first pregnancy into my second one always fearing the worst for my children. When my third pregnancy was revealed, I was once again devastated because the marriage was failing and with two young boys I didn’t know what I would do with a third child. I cried out to God thinking naturally He was once again punishing me for being “unequally yoked”. I was so emotionally overwrought that I began to miscarry again. The midwife said that if I didn’t get my emotions under control that I would lose the baby. So that night, I prayed to the Lord repenting and appealing to Him for the first time in many years sobbing in His Midst. Then I heard that still small voice, you know the One when the Holy Spirit whispers to you and peace floods your heart and mind releasing the bondage and heaviness of your burden. He said simply this, “She will be the desire of your heart!” It was true. She would be born and become the young woman that I share with you earlier. She is the desire of my heart and her daddy’s, too. She was born in a dead marriage for the new life that was to come when her daddy could finally adopt her and complete the promise from long ago. I do not share this to glorify divorce or any other sinful act, but to say this God will make good on every promise if given the chance. He is not out to get you or tell you “I told you so” but perfect all that concerns you. This will only happen if you will trust Him to do so enough to hang on until He does. There is pain in the process as your sinful nature fights to survive and must be dealt with harshly. When Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord you are granted freedom to live a new life from the inside out. It doesn’t mean that everything around you changes but that you do. I have more peace and joy now in the journey that we are on than ever before. I feel closer to God through Jesus Christ than I ever thought possible.
Eighteen years ago, I thought that I had destroyed my life and fallen so off course that my dead dreams should be left behind and buried accepting less than God’s Best. I had sold out to the lie of the enemy – then I heard His Voice and I believed what He said. I fight to hold on every day to the Word of God that fortifies my life. He is my only hope so I must strive daily to focus on the Lord and put all my faith in Him. People do think that I am crazy because I can smile, laugh and joke in the midst of pain. They think I quite possibly have lost my mind because I do not worry and fret all the time. I have peace that passes all understanding that no matter what the doctors tell me tomorrow or the next scan shows that our son “will live and not die” because that is what God told me. He is the only one who knows the end from the beginning. He authored my life so who better to tell the story. It is our sinful nature that tells us God requires change. Such thinking implies that we have something to offer and nothing could be further from the Truth. We must prepare our life to receive which means leaving everything behind to fully embrace Jesus Christ and His Presence in our life. Such a relationship will make us productive again and we will bear the offspring of faith and confident hope called righteousness making all things possible. The Lord didn’t say, “Whoever comes should bring me…” but rather “whoever comes will be…” (John 6:35)
2 Corinthians 4:15-18 (Message)
We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise! So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.
When Abraham set off to the mountain with Isaac that day, the struggle was not in climbing the mountain but clinging to confident hope. God was testing the strength of Abraham’s relationship to Him after being given the desire of his heart. Was the man willing to give up everything in the natural to have God’s Promise supernaturally? The answer was yes. But in that moment of trial and testing, Abraham still had to keep walking. God could have taken Isaac while he was sleeping in his bed if He so desired. The journey to the mountain was laborious and the trek up the mountain steep and hard especially under the burden of Abraham’s human heart. But he kept on going…who would do that? Crazy people who believe that God loves them more than anything else, perfects all that concerns them and are willing to remain in the watchtower until He comes will. Those who desire right standing in relationship and friendship with the Lord both now and forever will risk the rejection of the world just to have Jesus Christ. We are not out of our mind but have the mind of Jesus Christ. Faith is our strength, confident hope the very thing that anchors us in righteousness to receive all that God has promised. They thought John the Baptist was a madman, but that is not what we think now. Our purpose and plan in life stretches before we were born and extends into Eternity. Do not expect shortsighted people to accept, approve or affirm your life. Cling to Jesus. He was there in the beginning. He has promised to never leave you or forsake you. And He will welcome you in the end! Your bases are covered so take a deep breath and hold your position. You’re not crazy or I am, too!
I Peter 1:3-5 (Message)
What a God we have! And how fortunate we are to have him, this Father of our Master Jesus! Because Jesus was raised from the dead, we’ve been given a brand-new life and have everything to live for, including a future in heaven—and the future starts now! God is keeping careful watch over us and the future. The Day is coming when you’ll have it all—life healed and whole.