For those who think they will try the “Jesus” thing, it probably won't work. Embracing Jesus Christ as Lord of your life is not about trying something and if it doesn't work, putting it back down. He is not a quick fix. Jesus is not a religion. He wants a relationship. With my track record in that department one would have thought it was finished before it started.
God used my childhood and I remembered how I felt when I went to church. My family did not attend even though we lived beside one. I snuck into two of the three churches of our small town on week days and wondered about what the decorations, the stories, pictures and stained glass windows all meant. I was beginning to understand them now, from an adult's point of view.
There was something about being in a silent church. The doors were never locked back then. I remember kneeling at the alter trying to entwine my fingers like the folded hands of the mosaic picture of Christ kneeling at a rock in the Garden of Gethsemane. Christ was drawing me back then and I wanted to be like that person. He was the one who said, “...Follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” Matthew 4:19, KJV.
I had gone to Catechism classes and learned the Apostles creed. The Sunday some of us children were going to be taken into the church (joining), they discovered I wasn't baptized; nothing a quick sprinkle couldn't fix.
I wore my very best from a brown bag: a yellow dress with white swirls, a black velvet belt with rhinestones, my brand new red and white popcorn socks and my brown penny loafers. I was dressed in what I treasured most. God would help me color coordinate later. But remember it isn't what we have or don't have to decorate the outside of our bodies that counts, it's what he is doing to change us on the inside. He looks at our heart.
As I ventured into this relationship with Jesus I came to know what it really meant to be loved with an everlasting love and no matter how many times I fail to get it right, he is always waiting for me, forgiving me, comforting me through his word in the Bible. It's a love letter written to each of us.
Many people have good information and ideas to help us in deepening our growth, in our relationship with Jesus, but friend, no one but you can study and know what he is saying to your heart and when you hear him don't let it go. You cannot help but grow if you're asking him questions, looking for answers and waiting for him to open the truth of his word and place it in your heart.
When I say it is a process, it is. None, I repeat, none of us have arrived and the moment you think you have God will humble you in some way to help you understand there is much more to be learned. As God becomes your constant, he will help you to put away things that do not honor him or that may hurt you.
I wanted to quit smoking and drinking when I came to Jesus, but it wasn't a miracle or an overnight event. Drinking went first without to much of a problem, but smoking....
My husband didn't like it and he threatened to strangle me if I didn't quit. Many times I didn't have $1.50 to buy a pack and ended up digging through butts to get a puff. One day with my nose close to the ashtray I smelled the stench and never picked up another cigarette again. He answered my prayer not with threats, but in his own way.
I learned my body was the temple of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 6:19 and if I was his what was I doing poisoning it? That verse nails it for anything you or I do with our bodies. Food is another thing. I can't explain how you can know some things need to stop and yet you continue to abuse your body in others. We don't have to understand everything the word says, we just need to believe it. Ask, seek and knock for your own answers.
My road to recovery from promiscuity, drinking and smoking will not look like anything you have to deal with. Everyone has to go through a cognitive operation of learning to see things from God's spiritual point of view rather then looking for short term gratification or trying to satisfy the cravings running rampant in the mind. They must come into conformity with our new relationship with Jesus.
When I said at the beginning about not simply trying Jesus I meant it. Just because you might not like what he has to say and want to quit, don't. All of our life is about change and we need someone dependable and stronger than us to go through the process.
May I add another piece of information – it is alright to cry out to God and tell him you don't like it and complain and ask why. After you have however, comes the important part – be quiet. Be quiet and listen to what he says to you in your innermost being. Believe what he is telling you and move on to the next challenge.
If you want peace in you, you've got it! But your mind must stay on Christ and not focus on your failures and circumstances (Isaiah 26:3).
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us,” Romans 8:37, NIV. Get God's word into you. Believing and trusting in it makes you a courageous person indeed! When you continue to trust and have faith in Jesus Christ he will bring what he says to completion (Philippians 1:6). Where are you at in this process?
Have you made appointments for tomorrow or some other future date? Some of them you will keep and some will have to be rescheduled, because, well, you never know what will pop up in the meantime to interfere with “your” plans.
I was given a bracelet in 1966 that I could not part with because the emotional attachment I had with the object was cemented in my mind. Someone I loved had given me the silver-linked identification bracelet with the word “Domani” inscribed in block letters on the plate.
So many things seemed important back then. Frank Sinatra came out with song lyrics of a catchy tune that only made things harder. He sang “When you're in love domani never comes... Let's forget about domani, let's forget about domani, let's forget about domani for domani never comes.”
No words were ever truer... domani... “tomorrow” never comes. When it does come, it is no longer called tomorrow but it becomes today.
I kept my treasures of the heart, the bracelet, a scarf and the three letters I received from my love, hidden from the prying eyes of everyone including my husband. They were all I had left. It was true tomorrow never came. Every time I brought them to light the tears would flow, as they do now, to mourn a time when all I knew was today and tomorrow never came. I never made plans for tomorrow because I was all wrapped up in today.
Many years later when Christ became my guide and confidant, I began taking pleasure in the flowering of truth obtained through reading scripture and saw how the past had to be left go, no matter how unpleasant or painful. If tomorrow was to be the best it could be, well then, I had to rid myself of the things which kept me imprisoned in yesterday. They were to me childish things and they had to go.
The first of the mementos I left go were the letters. Flames licked them and curled them into ashes and they were gone. But I still had two things. How long after I don't recall, but the scarf also danced in the flames and bid a sorrowful goodbye.
All that remained was the bracelet.
Philippians 3:13-14 became like an unending alarm that I could not turn off.
“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
If the full bloom of my relationship with Jesus was to take place I had to let it all go, the bracelet along with the pain and unfulfilled desires. The emotional attachment they held over me was keeping me from realizing who God wanted me to be.
I love how The Message interprets this:
“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”
The bracelet left with the garbage, the last of my “secrets.” It never was much of one anyhow, at least not to God who is the reader of our hearts.
Suddenly, I was jarred into today and knew things were going to be different because my priorities and focus had changed, no longer upon something that could never be. I began putting the new chapters of my life into prospective by looking at what I could do today instead of what I might do tomorrow. One of the things I did begin to do however, was to keep a calendar of appointments, plans for my tomorrows.
The visits to the past began to fade with each passing day and now only when I don't dismiss them by telling the devil what he can do with the past, do I become melancholy. You see that is what he does. He waits around “seeking who he may devour” and when you let your guard down he pounces. Before you know it you're dragged into all of the misery that is long past and reliving it again. What we need is not more pills to help our depression but more understanding of how to defeat the enemy of our soul who wants us to think yesterday is more important than today.
Once I realized who I was in Christ Jesus, I no longer had to fear what tomorrow held for me. Other people can not dictate to me who I am and my past cannot keep me from walking into tomorrow, only I can.
Each day of our life is not forgetting about tomorrow, but looking forward to it. This is what happens when we take Jesus Christ into our heart and he shows us what true love is really like. He has given me nothing that I have to regret, to hide away or to dispose of later. No, his love beams brighter and brighter each day and as Lamentations 3:22-23 says, his mercies and compassions are new every morning, without fail.
Have you disposed of all of yesterday's trash, be it disappointment, unrequited love, job failure, wreaked marriage etc.? Let go of yesterday because it keeps piling up and stinks and follows you everywhere. Begin to live as God intended you to and don't forget there is a tomorrow, make plans by making Jesus first in your life and remember, your tomorrow starts with what you do today.
You're not going to find the words about “all things becoming new” anywhere except in a Christian approach to life. We all need a positive outlook no matter what path we went down first. This one leads to the saving grace of Jesus Christ and a forever change in our lifestyle.
Last time, I wrote of a new beginning and so I pick up with a quote from T.S. Elliot, “To make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.”
The first ending was my single life and the beginning of marriage and motherhood. But by far the best and second ending came when I left sin behind and began walking in the light of a new life in Jesus Christ.
I was as squeamish as anyone else who attends church in the beginning and assumed the men and women who comprise any body of believers to be “holier than thou” people who couldn't imagine what it's like to have a sorted past with skeletons in the closet, as they say.
Let me assure you everyone has a past, for God says “all have sinned.” Like me (maybe not identical), no one passes the squeaky clean test without Jesus. We all have to believe in Jesus to have a fresh start and be able to put our past behind. You will not forget it, but there can be no more dwelling there to entertain the thoughts of the “good old days” or to allow the devil to torment you by reminding you about your drinking problem, the drugs you ingested, the scarring on your body, the elicit affairs you had, the unfair life you had or any other thing or wrong path you chose.
“Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you,” 2 Corinthians 5:19-20, The Message.
This then, is the first part of a new life. We have to accept God's offer of salvation through his Son Jesus Christ. Learning to take God at his word can be difficult at first, especially if you feel you're the scum of the earth, but he takes the filthy rags (our sins) of our past and washes them and makes them white as snow and makes everything new.
It's amazing how we don't think about sin before accepting Jesus Christ into our lives. That's a point many people can forget when they are trying to tell others about their need of salvation. When you're without Christ, sin is not sin to you, you can only see it for what it is when you have been enlightened by Jesus. The world is only too happy to tell you whatever you want to do is alright, you're worth it, so follow your heart. Stop and look, for God shows you another way.
So here we are. After acknowledging our need of Jesus we see our lives for what they were and allow him to come into our heart. He begins our healing from the inside out. I know my husband, as well as some of his friends, thought I lost a few marbles when I came to Christ.
When the poker game with it's smoking and drinking came to our house every other week, I waited up, made sandwiches and emptied ashtrays. Something had changed in me. After a few months they quit having games at our house because they became uneasy with my behavior toward them. I know now I was used as an instrument of God to bring conviction into their lives.
As I began attending church and Bible study, prayed and read the Bible more and more consistently, I grew in my faith. Even my husband's friend saw things he couldn't explain, like when I drove a car without a fuel pump to church and back again. I was unaware it was missing any part, I only wanted to feed my new, insatiable appetite.
I had no one around me at home supporting my decision to live for Christ so if I believed God was enough then he was going to have to show me time after time the truth of his word until I got it. And he did!
Here in the United States we may face ridicule for what we believe, loose those we thought were friends and feel all alone. Those are lies. Everywhere we go, there God is. What freedom comes to your soul when you find yourself being delighted not by people, but by Almighty God!