Abundant Life

I remember the days when my older 3 children were all small and I would come home from work and they would come running to the front door yelling daddy daddy! They listened to everything I said and thought I knew everything. They believed everything I said and did everything that I told them to do, our relationship was sweet and precious. As they grew older and were being taught at school by their friends that there’s another way to look at things, our relationship became somewhat frustrating at times. It’s hard to get people to see the truth when they want so badly to believe in another way. I know how frustrating this was for me as a parent, I can’t imagine how it might’ve been for Jesus. One thing I did not do so well as a parent when I was younger is keep my cool. I did not like my authority or my knowledge and wisdom being questioned by teenagers. When worst came to worst, my default mechanism was to just lay the law down! Yeah, that really worked well for me.

I’m not exactly sure when it was but, my children were still pretty young, I realized that when they’re not home, they’re going to do whatever they want to do anyway, just like I did at their age. My power, control and influence was limited, maybe nonexistent. I really didn’t have any power or control over what they were going to do or say. I could however, influence them if I was willing to listen to what they were saying and try to understand where they were coming from. Sometimes that meant that I didn’t even get to suggest what I believed, depending on the circumstance, they weren’t going to listen to anything I said anyway. After all, they knew everything from their friends at school. My willingness to listen with a desire to understand, I have found, gives me greater influence in life whether I’m dealing with family, friends, coworkers ect….

I always tried to be a good shepherd with my family, I like keeping the sheep together, at times they have scattered. Jesus was a good shepherd and he taught well. Jesus’ teaching often confused people. Sometimes it confused everybody. He was often criticized because many did not understand what he was saying and many did not want his words to be true, they wanted what they and their friends said, to be true. How many times in His ministry did He come to realize that not even His disciples were understanding what He was saying, but He continued to teach well and help them understand. One of Jesus’ strengths was that he always knew where people were coming from within their heart. As I interact with others it’s important that I listen to what they’re saying with a desire to understand where they’re coming from in their heart. It’s important, no matter who we are interacting with, that we try to understand where people are coming from. We might have opposite views on politics, religion, Covid and vaccines but if I’m going to be a good shepherd on this earth, I need to love well. For the most part, unless you’re saying something terrible about God, I don’t care if we have opposite opinions. But it’s important that I understand why you feel differently about those topics, this helps me to better interact with those people. Jesus at times could be confrontational as he pointed out the hypocrisy coming from the religious leaders of His day, but He never laid the law down, He never suggested it was His way or the highway. However, He did teach that His way was the only way. Jesus wants the best for us, He tells us so in John 10:10b

“I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.”


I love to read God‘s word and I have a clearer understanding of God’s message than when I started reading his word 25 years ago. Often times the general meaning is clear but, there’s often a deeper meaning that could be missed if not properly sought. I always pray and meditate asking for God to reveal his presence and truth, sometimes I need and like to discuss scripture with friends. It’s easy to read Luke 8 and see that there were women who Jesus had healed who traveled with Jesus and his followers and they had the means to financially support Jesus. Jesus told parables, many did not understand unless Jesus explained what the parables truly meant. The proper way to use a candle and how to recognize who you have true relationships with.

Like the women, I also have been healed by Jesus. That’s the easy part to recognize, but then I have to ask myself, am I traveling with Jesus? Am I financially supporting him and his followers? When I first read parables I was so thankful that Jesus explained the parables so I would know what he was talking about. As I’ve done various Bible studies on certain parables I learned there was a much deeper explanation to the parables than what I thought. The proper use of the candle of course is easily understood, how we are Gods light in this world. And the scripture about true relationships could get pretty deep, Jesus’ mother Mary and his siblings wanted to speak with Jesus and yet he implied that his family were those standing in front of him listening to his teaching.

Understanding God‘s word and implementing his truth in my life is not an easy matter. It should be a matter of gathering information and then doing, right? Simple, right? Wouldn’t it be nice if life was that easy?

Most of my adult life I worked as a sheet-metal worker out of Local #218 in Springfield. The last 10 years that I worked in the trade I ran crews for my employer. I was often responsible for managing the time of 4-12 other men. I excelled in my trade and became known as one of the best. I’ve been fortunate to have two professions I’ve thoroughly loved, but I love the one I currently work in now more as I help people. I only have to manage my own time, this is so much easier, NOT! It sounds like it should be easier but I have found that it is far from easy.

I’m reading a book called Today Matters by John Maxwell in hopes of improving my time management with the activities that will help me excel in this profession. I give quality customer service to my clients but sometimes passivity has kept me from achieving my productivity goals. Quality customer service is important in my profession however, success is measured by productivity numbers. I need to find people every year who I don’t know that I can work with. I often get caught up with thoughts of perfection and lose sight of the fact that I just need to make progress. Understanding the Pareto principle and how it pertains to my daily activities helping me to properly prioritize and make new habits today. Creating new positive habits are not any easier than breaking bad habits and sometimes you do both at the same time.

Understanding the basic principles, you would think it would be easy to jump right into a well organized day that will help me increase my production numbers for the year. I wish it was that easy. Like loving others, that’s God’s will for us and his truth that he conveys to us through his Word and the way that he lavishes his love upon us. I screw up, God still lavishes his love upon me. Other people annoy me, ut oh, do I lavish my love upon them? Again, God desires progress and not perfection.

Today I will be better than yesterday loving others and following a schedule.

Christian Fellowship

Paul wrote the book of Romans during his visit to Corinth on his third missionary journey. He did not plant the church in Rome and had never visited there. Those who started the church in Rome were in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and heard the gospel. This is probably why Paul speaks about general topics in the book of Romans rather than specific issues. No other letter contains such comprehensive doctrine and universal application.

Paul starts his letter noting that he is a slave of Jesus Christ called by Christ to apostleship. He clarifies that Jesus’ coming was prophesied by the prophets and that Jesus was a descendent of David according to the flesh. Jesus’ genealogy is given in the books of Matthew and Luke, if you compare them they are different. Matthews account shows the bloodline coming from David’s son Solomon, this is Joseph’s bloodline. Luke’s account comes from David’s son Nathan, this is Mary‘s genealogy. The Messiah‘s genealogy was extremely important to the Jews and should be to us as well. It is one of the ways we identify who the true messiah is which is why Matthew and Luke documented Jesus’ genealogy.

Paul must’ve received good news reports about the Romans and their level of faith. He thanks them for having the level of faith they had. Have you ever been thanked by anyone for your level of faith? Being thanked for something people see in you that you know is actually the Holy Spirit within you being revealed is very humbling. Often times we don’t even recognize it ourselves, it has become part of who we are. Paul says he often mentions the Roman Christians and he is always asking God if he could visit Rome. The way Paul mentions this makes it sound like he asks in casual conversation with God about the things he wants in life, do you have casual conversations with God? Whether on your knees in prayer or just simply talking to God, all communication with God is prayer. I try to be in a prayerful attitude with God all day, kind of like hanging out with him as the disciples did with Jesus. Then when another driver does something stupid in traffic and my first thought is very critical and negative, I feel God‘s presence, my second thought is to ask for his forgiveness and request he change my heart to a heart of love for others so I can love like he loves. In versus 11 & 12 he says:

For I want very much to see you, so I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you, that is, to be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.

That’s Christian fellowship, when we get together I should be imparting some spiritual gift to strengthen you and I should also be receiving some spiritual gift that strengthens me as a result of our fellowship. When you’ve been with other Christians and you walk away from your conversation, don’t you usually have a sense of strength and feel uplifted? Jesus traveled with an entourage of 70+ people who He taught and fellowshipped with and yet He modeled this by having a group of 12 men he chose who He was closer to and had a more intimate relationship with. Then he had 3 men he was closer to than the other 9 and then there was John who he seemed to have an even closer relationship with. It seems easier for women to have a great spiritual support group, men have a tendency to struggle with that. We all need 2 or 3 people we could share anything with but, we definitely need to have at least 1 person who we can turn to when we can’t make sense of the reality of the world we live in.

These men learned from Jesus, were amazed by the insight Jesus had into the Scriptures and blown away by the miracles he performed. After Jesus was gone, all they had was each other, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, that was more than enough. They leaned on each other and spoke with each other and encouraged each other so they would not give up living a life of faith in Jesus Christ. I’m thankful for those people in my life and will tell them how grateful I am that God put them in my life.

All You Need is Love

1John 5 starts out mentioning that everyone who loves the father also loves Jesus, how will people know we love God? By the way we love God’s children and obey his commands. When our children were little and first started learning the word no, their nature was to go ahead and do whatever we said no to. But as we love them and teach them why we say no about things that are not good for them they learn, they trust, they find wisdom, they come to realize that following what we say gives them a better life. Our rules are not to keep them from fun or to harm them, they are to protect and help them to go through life with less troubles.

The 10 commandments have often been seen as a set of rules to follow. But the 10 commandments are a blessing to us in our lives. Jesus simplified the 10 Commandments by saying that if you love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and then love your neighbor as yourself, you’ll fulfill the law. Why did He have 2 when God gave us 10? He summarized the 10 Commandments. When you look at the 10 Commandments the first 4 are all about loving God, the final 6 are all about loving people. If you love people as you love yourself, you should not be committing sins against the final 6 Commandments. One of the most important things is knowing what the 10 commandments actually mean. Jesus implies at one point that we’ve all broken all 10 Commandments. People will say they’ve never murdered anybody, #6 thou shall not murder. Jesus explains in the beatitudes that murder is not limited to ending someone’s life. It also means defaming someone’s character, demeaning somebody, running them down. Committing adultery is not limited to having sex with someone else’s spouse, although that’s a big one. If we treat everyone else with the love and respect that we wish to be treated with, our lives will be a whole lot better. If we don’t have critical thoughts, words and actions towards others, our level of stress in our lives will be greatly diminished. That’s how much God loves us, he gave us 10 basic guidelines to bless us in our lives to help us to live the best lives that we can live and enjoy His peace, and it’s all about loving God and other people. Simple, right! Don’t we wish it was that simple. I’m thankful that when I turn to God for his help, He always lovingly helps me through every situation no matter what I’ve already said or done.

So how do we love on others as we love ourselves? When I think of that question I think about how I sacrificially love my wife and children. They’re wants and needs always come before mine. But they are my family, honestly, I don’t want to love a lot of other people like that. We all know people in your lives we interact with regularly who don’t know Jesus Christ. Maybe some of these people we don’t like. Have you ever thought, “I’m not going to take the time to witness to that person, that would definitely have to be up to somebody else if that person is going to go to heaven”. Do you think that would be breaking any of the 10 Commandments? Ouch! If we loved others as we love ourselves, it would be a priority for us to witness to these people also. That’s a tough one for me.

There is a young woman, mid 40s, in my community who I have not liked mainly because I know she supplied my oldest daughter with Vicodin and I don’t know what else when my daughter was heavily addicted to drugs several years ago. Did I mention I did not like this person? I mean I really really did not like her at all but, I did my best to be nice, funny and seemingly caring as I sometimes talked with her about craziness in her life. I tried to be caring on the outside but inside, I wasn’t going to waste my time telling her about Jesus, she was addicted to drugs and wouldn’t listen anyway, right? Last spring I was getting in my car outside the lumberyard and who was sitting in her car next to mine, she was. She hadn’t seen me and I could’ve drove away without her knowing because her nose was stuck in her phone but, I said hi. I know now that this was a God ordained meeting as she was so excited to see me and said she’d been meaning to call me to tell me the great news that she had found Christ in her life and was 3 weeks clean from drugs. Why would she want to call me? Apparently she felt loved and cared for by me. We talked for about 30 minutes then she followed me to my house so I could give her a Charles Stanley book “The Source of My Strength” to read and she did. She calls me when she lashes out at someone in a fit of anger because she trusts I will be compassionate, understanding, listen and speak God’s wisdom and love to her. I love this girl and take her calls when it is not convenient, I will sacrifice what I want for what she needs.

God is so amazing and will speak His love through us even when we don’t mean it. I’m not worthy of being used like that but I am willing to be used anyway He desires. God is GOOD ALL the TIME! So, if you felt conviction about people you don’t witness to in your life remember, God’s love is bigger than we are. Our small attempts to be cordial can be used by God in a much larger scale. ALL the TIME, GOD is GOOD!

In 1967 was the first international satellite television production called Our World. John Lennon was asked to write a song that would be internationally recognized. The song he wrote, All you need is LOVE, it was a very simple song that the entire world could sing along to. John Lennon would not give credit to God‘s word, but the basic message of the song comes directly from God’s teaching to all of us, all we need is His love flowing through us to others.

Godly Friends

Hebrews 7 is based on an Old Testament man Melchizedek, years ago I heard a message suggesting  that Melchizedek was an Old Testament manifestation of Jesus Christ. I don’t believe this is true as I’ve heard more teachings that if it were true the author of Hebrews, and other places in the bible, would mention that. He does mention that Melchizedek had no father, mother or genealogy having no beginning of days or end of life. All the Hebrews author is stating is that they don’t know anything about where Melchizedek came from because there’s no biblical record of his life except his encounter with Abraham.

I’m a big fan of reading the Old Testament, I love all the real life accounts. I love reading about Abraham and his journey. Ann Graham Lotz, daughter of Billy Graham,  wrote a book called The Magnificent Obsession about Abrahams life, it is an awesome book and it will speak God’s truth into your life.

Even though the Bible doesn’t give any details about Melchizedek‘s life, what we do know is, Abraham knew who Melchizedek was and knew that Melchizedek worshiped the same God Abraham worshipped. He thought highly of Melchizedek’s priesthood and gave him 10% of the spoils when he returned from rescuing Lot, Abraham had great respect for this man.

Usually in the Old Testament when you read the word priest, it’s referring to someone who is a descendent of Aaron, a Levite. Melchizedek lived centuries before Aaron was born. Also, none of the Christian church leaders in the New Testament are called priest.

This made me think about who I have high respect towards in my life because of their relationship with God. These people are not people I grew up with, I don’t know much about their family history. I’m curious about how Abraham knows Melchizedek, did they spend time together talking about their God? For me, I need strong men of God around me in my life. It’s crucial that I have men with strong biblical knowledge and faith who I can talk about life’s obstacles with. It’s even better that a couple of these men enjoy a good cigar once in a while like I do, so while enjoying a good cigar we talk about life and what we feel God is saying to us in our individual circumstances. I also study God‘s word in depth with a couple of these men, these Bible studies are not superficial discussions that I’ve often encountered within my church. These are interdenominational groups, and they go deep and get personal. Transparency and confidentiality are extremely important.

Hebrews 8:1 the author is saying that the point of what had been said, in Hebrews 7, is that we now have a high priest, Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the throne of God in heaven, verse 2 says

                                   a minister of the sanctuary and the true tabernacle                                that was set up by the Lord and not man.

What sanctuary, not built by human hands, would this priest minister to? Us, we are the sanctuary and true tabernacle created by God. This priest does not need to offer sacrifices on our behalf because He was our sacrifice on our behalf. This priest did not need to come out of the Levitical bloodline, he came through the bloodline of Judah. Verse 6 says that Jesus has a superior ministry and is a mediator of a better covenant with better promises. God brought us a new covenant through Jesus Christ, a faultless covenant.

I’m getting ready to experience some major life changes and it’s easy for me to get hung up on feelings of being afraid, lost, unorganized, undisciplined, unloved, lonely, idle and unproductive. This is not what God wants me to experience because that’s not really who I am. My heavenly priest Jesus Christ reminds me that

I am courageous                                                                                                                      I am focused                                                                                                                             I am systematic                                                                                                                       I am disciplined                                                                                                                        I am loved                                                                                                                                 I am connected                                                                                                                        I am active                                                                                                                                I am effective

These are the affirmations in my life Jesus Christ confirms when I read His word and pray to Him daily. They are the words my closest friends use when speaking truth into my life. They align perfectly with God’s promises in my life as I often need to remind myself that

He chose me,                                                                                                                         He adopted me,                                                                                                                   He favors me,                                                                                                                      He forgives me,                                                                                                                    He has sealed me,                                                                                                                He has redeemed me,                                                                                                         He has saved me and                                                                                                         He made me an heir with Christ.

I’m thankful for sticky notes hanging around my desks about eye level reminding me how I’m favored by God and I’m thankful for God putting certain people in my life to help me navigate the craziness in this world. As the Beatles said, we all need a little help from our friends.


In Philippians 4 Paul encourages his loved ones at Philippi to stand firm in the Lord. He encourages Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Paul knew these two women personally; these women were probably deacons in their church, and they were having an inappropriate disagreement. It’s obvious Paul believed these ladies had true hearts for Christ and needed to come together and not be divisive. He set this example for all of us in all of our churches, our lives. We’re not always going to agree, it’s OK to disagree and sometimes it’s really good when we disagree. How we disagree is important. Even when we disagree, we want to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind and always be working side-by-side. I love verses, 6&7

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with Thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Instead of worrying about anything, pray, take our requests with a thankful heart to God. I often times pray for God‘s help with things, and then I don’t do my part to allow God‘s blessings in my life. It’s that way with worry for me sometimes, I’ll pray for my concerns that God does not want me to worry about, asking for Him to bless me with His peace. Then, sometimes, I turn around and focus on the negative aspects of my issue which creates worry and anxiety. This of course keeps me from experiencing God‘s peace. As long as I do what Paul teaches here by keeping my focus on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable, praising God for all that is in my life, the God of peace will be with me. V13 I remind myself often,

I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Paul is under house arrest at this particular time of imprisonment which meant that instead of living in a dungeon, he got to live in a house that he rented. This care package he received from the Philippians helped him to pay the rent. Paul thanks them and mentions that they’ve sent him gifts serval times before. In verse 17

not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that is increasing to your account.

In the original translation Paul uses key words that were used in the Roman empire to describe lending institutions and the accumulation of interest. The Philippian’s gifts are not only helping Paul live so he could continue his ministry for Christ, but it is adding to the benefits these people were receiving in God’s heavenly kingdom. Paul would take that investment and grow it’s value in his ministry. Do you ever wonder what your interest rate in God’s kingdom is? How often do you give to that account? I sometimes forget that my attitude alone can add to the account, the kind of love and attention I show to others. When I unjustly feel critical of others or feel a dislike for others in my heart, does that withdraw from my account? Ouch! As Paul ends the letter to the Philippians he says

all the saints greet you but especially those from Caesar’s household.

I looked over that passage for years without realizing that even though Paul was in prison, his ministry was very strong converting many people to Christianity, people within Nero’s household. At this time in history, Nero was in power and it was known that there were many Christians around Nero within his household as it was not illegal to be a Christian yet. We’re blessed in our country that it is not illegal to be a Christian. There are people who suggest that one of the political parties is trying to do away with Christianity. Some people find Christianity to be very threatening to them in their life, their world, because Christianity goes against what they wish to believe. Will being a Christian be against the law in the United States for our children, our grandchildren? This is a hard reality to consider and most people choose not to think about it. We should be praying about it, and the investments we make towards God’s kingdom here on earth now will pay dividends when we go home to be with Christ. Are we leaving a Christian legacy that will last through our children and grandchildren?

In his letter to the Colossians, like many of Paul’s other letters, Paul recognizes and thanks the church of Colossae for their work of faith, endurance of hope and labor of love. For their increase in the quality of their faith in Jesus Christ. In verse 9 he lets them know that he is praying for them to experience supernatural wisdom. In verse 10 he is praying for their maturity in Christ and verse 11 for them to experience supernatural power. Shouldn’t we be praying this for ourselves, our family, our churches and community every day? Praying like that should be a priority in my life every day.

Life of Action

2Corinthians 3-5

In 2Corinthians 3 Paul addresses an issue that false apostles in Corinth had come with letters of recommendation from the Jewish leaders to denounce anything that Paul had taught and were questioning Paul’s authority asking where his letters of recommendations were. I love what Paul writes to the true believers in Corinth in verses 2 & 3,

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, recognized and read by everyone. It is clear that you are Christ’s letter, produced by us, not written with ink but with the spirit of the living God – not on stone tablets but on tablets that are hearts of flesh”.

How many professed Christians do you know that when you watch and listen to their lives, they don’t align with the life of Christ? Have you ever heard someone say:

“be careful how you live; you will be the only Bible some people ever read”


“If you were ever accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”

We often think thoughts like, “I don’t care what other people think”, and this should be true if your attitude revolves completely around being Christlike because we should care what Christ thinks about us. In today’s society, people just want to assume they can do, say or live however they want and they are excepted by the love of Jesus Christ. That is not what God‘s word says, therefore, we must allow ourselves to be transformed by the truth of Gods word, not allowing ourselves to conform to this world as God teaches us in Romans 12:2. In 2Cor 3:18 Paul says,

“We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the spirit.”

When Paul is saying with unveiled faces he means for us to be fully open to Christ’s work within us, Jesus’ fullness, character and revelation of the Father image. When he says looking as in a mirror, that is aligning what we see about ourselves with God‘s word. When I am looking into God’s word, what reflection of myself do I truly see. I love the encouragement that we find in 2Cor 4:8,9,

“We are pressured in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.”

Darrell Evans wrote a song, trading my sorrows, in reference to these verses. No matter what, we don’t give up. I don’t consider myself a quitter, but sometimes I think I give up. Is that due to a lack of faith, trust or belief? I pray often Mark 9:24, “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” Thing is, I have overcome so much since coming to know Jesus Christ. I have persevered and endured through craziness, persecution, serious betrayal and more. I know that, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13 and yet sometimes, it’s not so much that I give up, but I become very passive, I stop being intentional. That attitude is not a Christlikeness, when I look in the mirror, into God’s word, I can see my life is not truly aligning with the likeness of Christ. Before coming to know Christ, I  used drugs and alcohol to overcome disappointments in life. But now I had something better and It is great to have Christ alive and be able to turn to him in the midst of disappointments.

In 2008 I experienced the most devastating betrayal I would ever expect to have to experience. This betrayal led to one serious negative event after the other including the loss of my job. I found myself in early 2009 wondering, “what is going on?” Like in 1995 when I came to know Christ as a result of seeking what was life truly about, this time I felt almost as lost but, this time I had Jesus Christ in my life. I knew what my foundation was, His truth. Out of these devastating events I became more intentional about searching out who Christ was in my Life and I’m very thankful for that. I once again experienced what Paul describes in 2Cor 5:17,

“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.”

This time I didn’t have to overcome the use of drugs, alcohol, profanity and such. The change was more of an internal change, my attitude, hope. Instead of feeling completely lost and abandoned, I knew my direction, walking with Christ wherever that may lead. This life is a temporary dwelling, our life really begins after our physical death. Paul reminds us in 2Cor 5:21,

“He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that way we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Not only can I persevere but, I must persevere after all God has done for me. Passivity is not an option, action is God’s desire for me in my life.

Be Transformed

Do you like change? I don’t! Yet, change is a part of life, isn’t it? When I first came to know Jesus Christ, it was easy to recognize changes that I needed to make in my life. I was 35, married, 3 small children under 5 years old and I hadn’t had a drivers license in years because of multiple DUIs. I had suffered 3 dramatically negative experiences in my life in a 6-month time period and I started questioning “what is life really about? Was everyone else the problem or was I the problem”. God used those 3 negative experiences and put the right people in my path to help me realize I needed Jesus. I’m so grateful for God’s love and how He orchestrated things at that time, all just for me.

Coming to know Jesus Christ is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. Immediate change occurred, everyone could see it, there was no doubt. There was a lot of skepticism, I don’t think anyone expected it to last, they just figured it was a phase I was going through. All my old friends stopped coming around and I wasn’t hanging out at their place. This traumatic change occurred because I was reading God‘s word and believed in it’s full and complete truth. I knew that I needed support in following God’s truth and if I started hanging out with my old friends again, I might’ve questioned reality as I had done my entire adult life.

Romans 12:2 is a scripture that I memorized easily when I was still new in my faith and has always been one of my favorites

Do not be conformed to this world,                                                                                but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,                                                      so that you will know what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.

Not conforming to this world meant that I needed to stay away from the bars and not hang out at my friend’s houses. This wasn’t easy, my children would ask, “hey dad, why doesn’t Smitty come by anymore”? Smitty was my closest friend and yet, he spread rumors and lies about me because of this new change I’d made in my life. It hurt me deeply when I heard what he had been saying. I started every day reading, believing and following God‘s word, the truth in my life and I ignored what the world was saying about me. Every morning I renewed my mind in God’s word, was continually being transformed and becoming strong against the temptation of conforming to this world.

The word transformed is translated from a word that means metamorphosis. Another one of my favorite scriptures is 2Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation;                                              old things have passed away, and look, new things have come.

This scripture is also referencing a transformation, a metamorphosis. The caterpillar metamorphosis is used in a youth ministry called Chrysalis which I was involved in for years. Once a caterpillar builds his cocoon around himself, his body completely liquefies, the old is gone and look, something new and beautiful appears. That’s what God does for those of us who come to know him.

It was easy at first to identify things I needed to change in my life. Drinking, smoking pot, looking at women the way that I did and profanity were the “big 4”. When I became stronger against those temptations, I felt this great feeling of accomplishment as I praised God for how he changed my life, transformed my heart. Then I realized, there was a whole other set of temptations I needed to overcome. My first thought was, “I’m never going to get this life with Christ right”. But I realized, a life in Christ was kind of like an onion. As I overcame the initial temptations I struggled with, God peeled the outer layer of the onion away and tossed it in the garbage. He was telling me that I was doing good and He revealed a new set of temptations to deal with, the next layer. This new set of issues was not because I wasn’t getting life right, it was because I was being transformed into Christ’s likeness and he was revealing more of His truth to me. He didn’t throw the whole list on me at one time completely overwhelming me, “baby steps” as my friend Noreen would say, progress not perfection as God‘s word teaches. I learned there is an endless number of layers, I’m always going to have something to work on as I work through my sanctification process.

As far as I have come in my walk with Jesus, it seems I have so far yet to go to be in his likeness. I heard someone say years ago that the closer you get to being like Jesus, the further you will realize you have to go. It seemed like a strange comment to me all those years ago, but now I understand.

I daily run into circumstances where I realize I need an attitude adjustment, typically this revolves around loving people, particularly those whom I don’t like. At first, I thought this was just a thick layer of the onion, but I’ve come to realize that loving others is in every single layer of the onion. I know I am persevering and at times making 3 baby steps forward and 2 giant steps backwards, but I am being transformed by God’s word to love others more. To consider them first above myself. I must pray every morning that God bless me with a heart of love for everyone, especially those I dislike or who I find irritable. This is by far my greatest challenge at transforming to Christ’s likeness. I’m grateful for God’s word and His Holy Spirit who helps me discern what God is saying to me, showing me where I need to beware of conforming to this world and how I need to be transformed by renewing my mind from the teachings of His word so I will know what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God which is, to love others.


As I read Acts 22 I thought about how all of the disciples during this time period suffered persecution but, the types of persecution Paul suffered were second worst only to what Jesus suffered. The extreme persecution Paul would face was revealed to Ananias when he questioned Jesus about restoring Paul’s sight. There are many parallels between Jesus’s and Paul’s sufferings. They both knew before going to Jerusalem that there was a high probability they would die. They were courageous and willing to do God’s will despite the consequences. Both had the entire city of Jerusalem in an uproar. The Jews conspired to have them both killed. Both were handed over to the Gentiles. They both faced hostile crowds calling for their death.

It’s easy to identify when we’ve been persecuted, other people dislike us, their paranoid or jealous. How quickly do I identify my wrongful persecution towards others because of my dislike of them, I’m jealous or critical of them? For the most part, my persecution is done in secret within my heart, sometimes I catch my attitude after it’s already started down that road and I have to ask myself if I really understand what the other person is saying, what their intent actually is. Sometimes if things don’t look the way I think it should look or sound the way I think it should sound, I’m against it and I think other people are wrong. It’s ok if I don’t agree with others as long as I don’t criticize them. I often have a different opinion than good friends and that’s actually a good thing if everyone can discuss their differences and simply agree to disagree. How many times do different opinions tear relationships apart? I have found that good conversations with people I disagree with can change attitudes about differences. I’ve actually changed my mind about my opinions after good conversations with people who have a different view than me and sometimes, they have changed their views. I  recognize that I’m not always right, ugh.

It’s easy in today’s world to get caught up reacting in worldly ways rather than responding in Godly ways. Today’s world has gone so over the top crazy. It’s acceptance of anything and everything that is against God’s ways and so completely condemning towards anyone who speaks God’s truth. It’s important as we profess truth that we do it out of a heart of love for others, not getting caught up in the hostility that today’s world thrives in.

Not everybody likes truth, they just want life to be whatever they want it to be no matter how right or wrong that is. They don’t understand the chaotic world we would live in if everyone lived with that kind of attitude, however, don’t we see our world and our country, turning more and more that way. The people on this road who speak out against God‘s truth are the ones that speak the loudest, and the world is conforming to their ways. If you speak God’s truth, you’re discriminatory, old fashioned, unloving, hateful, unaccepting of others and your persecuted for believing in God’s truth. It’s going to get worse.

I often hear Christians say that God loves them just the way they are, this is true, but God loves us too much to leave us that way. God will continue to show us His truth and enlighten us to the life He wants us to live, it’s important we are courageous and share that with others, especially those we love the most despite what’s popular. Often times, God’s truth isn’t popular, even in many churches. Be courageous for Christ despite the possible consequences.

Imitating Christ

In chapter 6 we learned that the explosion of Christ followers happened so fast that certain problems arose. The disciples through God‘s wisdom quickly identified that they should not have to deal with some of those problems as they were there to preach and pray with the people. So they needed to identify certain Christlike brothers who would be involved in ministries that needed special attention. I noted in my Bible that there may have been approximately 50,000 followers at this point in Jerusalem. So, the 12 disciples chose 7 men of good reputation, full of the spirit and wisdom and appointed them to these duties.

Have you ever had someone ask, if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Evidently, these 7 men could easily have been convicted of being Christians and they couldn’t stop talking about it as Jennifer mentioned a couple days ago. Out of 50,000 people, these 7 stood out and were chosen for this task. That’s pretty amazing really. I am often chosen for things at church, but there’s only about 30 of us. Even though I’m 60, I’m one of the younger people in my congregation. I get chosen by default ha ha.

Stephen was full of grace and power and was performing great wonders and signs among the people. it’s important to note, he was performing the same types of wonders and signs that Jesus did. Jesus told his disciples that they would do greater things than He. The same expectation is for all of us. I quickly identify in my mind why I couldn’t or can’t do things, like Moses did when he was called to perform God’s greatness in Egypt. Remember all the excuses? How many times have I had that debate in my mind, and not just with spiritual matters but with personal circumstances as well as professional. I tend to have a limiting belief that I bow to.

We know how the Jewish leaders were jealous of Jesus which is why they had him killed. Can you imagine the jealousy that arose after seeing this huge number of people explode in Jerusalem after the death of the problem they thought they got rid of. And then to see someone like Stephen performing the same wonders and signs as Jesus made them furious to the point they wanted to falsely accuse him just as they had done with Jesus. I’ve been falsely accused by others just as I’m sure you have. Work, friends, family. Typically, these people can talk, they just can’t hear, won’t hear, will not listen to truth. They just want their way no matter what that is. The really crazy thing is, if everybody actually verbalized what it is they wanted, they usually say they want the same thing. Don’t you think the religious leaders of this passage wanted a strong and faithful walk with God, you know that’s what they would say. That’s what Stephen wanted, that’s why he was serving the ministry that he was chosen for, why he was able to perform the great wonders among them. But because it didn’t look the way some wanted it to look or wasn’t being done by the right people, jealousy distorted and blinded certain people to God‘s truth and lead them to follow Satan‘s distortion. There’s a lot of that going around in today’s world.

When asked by the high priest if the accusations of blasphemy were true, Stephen gave a bit of a history lesson, which means that before coming to know Christ he studied the books of Moses and knew what God’s word said. At the end of the sermon, he called his accusers “stiff necked people”, think he followed Jesus around? He stated their ancestors didn’t listen to the prophets and had them killed. This man Stephen, performed signs and wonders like Jesus, admonished his accusers just like Jesus and in the end, asked for his killers to not be charged with their sin just like Jesus did from the cross.

Acts 6&7 are basically the highlight reel for Stephen. Many of us like catching up on sports and we love to watch the highlights of the greatest moves. What we don’t see is that for every 20 seconds of great play there was hours of hard work, daily work. My daily routine with God gives me the confidence to know I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength (Phil 4:13) which helps me overcome my limiting beliefs. What great signs and wonders have you been doing for Christ? Don’t sale yourself short, your parting of the Red Sea in your life will look very different from Moses’ parting. Who are you excitedly telling about Jesus?!