Category Archives: Overcoming Obstacles

Let it Go

Have you ever played tug of war? Opposing teams pull at opposite ends of the rope until one team is dragged across the center line. The key phrase here is opposing teams.

When we try to maintain control over something we should be leaving to God, we are pulling on the opposite end of that rope. God is stronger and will pull us over the centerline, but we are making the situation harder, and take longer than it needs to.

Let it go. Stop trying to control it. Stop trying to force it or fight God for it. Let it go, and let God do what is best. He has this in His very capable hands.

Isaiah 41:10 – “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

Be blessed,
C.K.

Forsaken

Paula sat down on the edge of her bed, gripping the envelope. Her heart raced and her fingers shook as she flipped it over and ran her thumb under the flap to expose the letter inside. She let the envelope fall to the floor as she pulled out the single sheet of paper, neatly folded in three parts. She could just make out the cursive writing that shown through to the unwritten side.

It’s from her. It has to be from her. She got my letter the agency sent and she’s responding!

Paula had spent years looking for her birth mom. The months she spent waiting for a response to her letter were finally worth it. In a moment, she would read her letter, and they would finally be able to meet and start the relationship she had only dreamed of as a child. She had waited so many years for this moment. Paula took a deep breath and tried quieting all the thoughts swirling in her mind as she gingerly opened the letter, an excited smile forming on her face. After a moment, her smile faded and her shoulders dropped as the tears welling in her eyes rolled down her cheeks and onto the paper.

There would be no joyful reunion. No cookouts forging new paths. No heart-felt tear-jerking embrace that would bring Paula the acceptance she so desperately desired. There was only more rejection.

She doesn’t want to meet me or my kids? Even now, she doesn’t want me. She never has.

Paula let the letter slide out of her hands and drift onto the floor next to the envelope. She stared down at both, fixing her gaze on the corner of the envelope which should have contained a return address, but didn’t.

***

I had asked my readers for blog topics, and there was one in particular that really tugged at my heart strings. It was about dealing with rejection from a parent or family member. I can tell you from personal experience, there is nothing quite so painful as facing abandonment from someone who is supposed to love you, but doesn’t. Whether that person physically or emotionally abandons you, both leave wounds so deep, that there’s great risk of infection, and even death. 

The death I speak of is not physical, but emotional. And the kind of infection that causes it is the kind that grows in your mind and heart as a result of the pain that rejection causes. It damages your filter and can cause you to see yourself in an unhealthy light. It can also make you to see others in an unhealthy light.

If you have been the unfortunate recipient of a deep rejection – a parent or sibling rejecting you, a divorce, a hate crime, a lost job, or your child closing the door on you – then I want to offer you a new letter. Not like the one our fictional character, Paula, had in her hands, but something better.

One that has a return address.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

This might be a commonly known Scripture, but it’s also a deeply personal message. A love letter from God to you. For God so loved the world. He isn’t talking about the dirt or the trees or the sky. He is talking about you. You are His love, and He loves you so deeply, He sent His only child to face torture and death, so a way could be made to spend eternity together. He pursues you no matter where you go (Psalm 139:7-8). He leaves the ninety-nine other sheep to look for you when you’re lost (Matthew 18:10-14). The depth of God’s feelings for us is unfathomable. We can’t possibly wrap our heads around the unconditional qualities of His love and acceptance.

You might be hurting as a result of experiencing rejection, but consider the source. People are flawed and they will always disappoint on some level. The closer they are to you, the more it will hurt. But that hurt has a silver lining. To every ying is a yang, and to every example of imperfect relationships is the proof of love – the consistent, trustworthy, and all-consuming love of God.

Don’t focus on what is behind. Keep your focus forward. You need not look any farther to find the One who not only wants you, but loves you… exactly as you are. No strings. No conditions. Just His love. Of course, there is so much more available when we choose to love Him back. He gives us all an invitation to abide in Him (John 15:4), find rest (Matthew 11:28), and learn from Him (Mark 1:17). Best of all, is the invitation to spend eternity in His loving presence (John 3:16). An eternity where rejection leaves no wounds and acceptance is the sweet perfume of Heaven.

Cherished One, I pray you can feel the loving arms of Jesus wrap tightly around you as you drink in love letters from the King of kings. Forgive those who reject, and allow God’s love letters to heal your heart and give you hope of what is real for you today, and what is to come. He will be with you always, to the ends of the earth (Mark 13:27, Psalm 98:3).

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Be blessed,
C.K.

See

“Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.’” Joshua 6:1-5

Wait. Stop. Go back and read that again and see if you can find what’s strange about this passage. C’mon. Humor me.

What did you see? I’ll give you a hint. It actually starts with the word, “see.”

First, a little context. God is talking to Joshua, as they are preparing to end their forty-year hiatus in the dessert, and exchange their manna for milk and honey. They are within eye shot of the promised land, but they have a big problem. Jericho was surrounded by a mighty stone wall. This wall was between twelve to seventeen feet high, and five to six feet thick. No joke. In addition, there were guards all over this wall. In order to enter the promised land, they had to conquer Jericho and its stone fortress.

The story is fairly well known. God tells Joshua he and his men are to march once around the city, each day, for six days. On the seventh day, they are to march around it seven times. At the end of the seventh round, they are to give a loud shout. That’s when God, by His own mighty hand, brought the wall down and gave the Israelites victory over Jericho.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read this story and, equally, how many times I went right past a message so exciting, it has my heart racing this morning. God’s Word is truly alive.

When God spoke to Joshua, it would have made sense had God gave him instructions and waited for the dance in the end zone before confirming victory. But that’s not what He did. God said, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands…” before it happened.

Whoa. Do you need a second to process that? I sure do.

Scripture tells us God’s Word never returns void.

“…so is My Word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

Whether that’s His words given to us in the Bible, or those things He speaks to us using the still, small voice, if He spoke it, it will come to pass and accomplish whatever He set out for it to do. Really take this in with me for a second. God, in all His perfection, omnipotence, and control can, with complete confidence and authority, claim the victory before it happens.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” Psalm 139:16

It’s simple, really. It’s already done. It’s already known to God. It’s like the movie He made but we haven’t watched yet. He knows every moment of every person’s life. Even the ones that haven’t happened yet. He can proclaim the victory to Joshua before they even start marching because He’s already seen it happen.

I don’t know about you, but this gives me a supernatural comfort I don’t quite know how to even put into words. It also raises a very important feeling in me. Trust.

Here’s the bottom line. If God has spoken something to your heart, believe Him. He’s already seen it play out, and what He says will never return void to Him. Go ahead and do your end zone dance before you march around the city. What a fantastic act of faith and worship your dancing will be… no matter how bad the person next to you thinks it is 🙂

Be blessed,
C.K.

B Cells

I sometimes feel envious of those in the medical profession, who have had the opportunity to study the amazing complexities of our bodies in gross detail. Gross is probably a good word to use because all that study involves seeing and touching all the stuff on the inside. I guess someone has to carry that burden, and thank the Lord it isn’t me.

What I’m most enamored by, are all the amazing examples God has given us through those complexities, about who He is and how He works. Today, we’re going to take a look at one of those examples. B cells. I’ll ask all my medical friends in advance for their mercy as I oversimplify this, and hope we can all exchange the gory details for the spirit of the message.

When your body is fighting an illness, it’s fighting something called antigens, which are foreign molecules that don’t belong in your body. When an intruder is detected, your body’s alarm system goes off and sends special cells that fight those antigens. Some release enzymes that kill the foreign objects. Some turn on the body’s immune system and trigger our B cells to make antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to the antigens, rendering them useless. The picture that comes to my mind is someone jumping on the back of an intruder, wrapping their hands around their eyes, and watching the chaos ensue. I imagine the intruder stumbling around, trying to figure out what’s going on, until they find themselves crashing into a wall and falling onto the floor. The antibody sits on the intruder until help shows up and halls him off to jail.

I allowed myself some interpretational liberty there, but I think you get the point.

That whole process is amazing in and of itself, but here’s something even more fascinating. Those B cells have memory. That’s right. Memory. That means they now recognize that intruder and, if he ever comes back, they know more about him, and how to fight him off.

The difficult things we go through in life can be a lot like this process. We get hit with foreign objects we don’t understand at first. Things that threaten our spiritual health. The Holy Spirit is like the cells that trigger and turn on our spiritual immune system, and our faith is like those B cells that fight against the attack. The antibody? Jesus, of course. No attack is pleasant, but once we walk through it, we learn and grow and equip ourselves to not only recognize, but fight it off quicker the next time.

Sometimes the most inspiring part of getting through a disease is not the healing itself, but what’s happening inside of you during the good fight.

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Jesus told us we would have trouble in this world, but He also told us not to be discouraged, because He’s already overcome them. I believe part of that story of overcoming isn’t just about overcoming illness – physical or spiritual. It’s about how you are overcoming amidst the pain of the journey, and that is what is truly inspiring.

Today’s writing was inspired by a couple I recently met, and I was deeply moved by their story. They took the terrible intruder, called Cancer, and turned it into a story of hope. Every day, since that journey began, they put out a Facebook post, “C the Good,” where they list all the ways God is good, and all the good things coming out of their trial. What an inspiration. They are vulnerably inviting people into the midst of their pain and turning it into hope for themselves and others.

Chose to be a lantern amidst your storm. Chose to be light to those around you. Be a beacon they can see and follow. In doing so, you’ll build your own spiritual immunity, and be more equipped to call on Jesus to calm the storms that come your way more quickly.

Be blessed,
C.K.

A Hairy Ordeal

It started with a simple idea. It always starts out as simple. Until you actually do it. Sometimes, you’re lucky and everything works out the way you saw it in your mind. Other times, it’s like watching your favorite ceramic mug fall off the counter, and you’re too far away to catch it. You simply have to watch it hit the floor and smash into pieces.

This bit of drama brought to you by the midlife crisis my hair seems to be having. My simple idea? Get a pixie haircut. “It will be fun,” they said. “It will look great on you,” they said.

My favorite mug lay shattered on the ground in a bazillion pieces.

I know I’m being dramatic, but that’s kind of how I felt for at least three solid minutes.  As a side note, I mean no disrespect or chiding to the woman who cuts my hair. I think she did a most excellent job, and nailed the picture I gave her to base the cut on. So after I stared dejectedly in the mirror for a couple of minutes, I gave myself a pep talk that hair grows, and it would all be okay in three to six months. Three to six months. That’s a long time. I needed a new plan, and a new plan is exactly what I came up with. I waited almost eight excruciating weeks for it to grow out a bit, and then I decided I was going to color it all. Platinum white. It would look spectacular. It would look so spectacular, I would no longer notice how much more I look like my brother. I would just be enamored by my cool hair color.

I made that appointment for Thursday. It was going to be fantastic. I could feel it. I’m not exactly sure what chemicals are used to lighten hair, but I’m pretty sure it’s a combination of hydrochloric acid and sulfur acid. Maybe a touch of gasoline. My scalp was on fire. But as my daughter used to say when she was in high school, “Beauty for pain.” I guess she was right.

After two rounds of the acid-like treatment, we learned the hard way that my hair is stubborn, and doesn’t like to lighten. So instead of the platinum white picture of perfection, I now had Ronald McDonald yellow hair with some white highlights.

I needed another plan.

I acquired something called a purple mask, which is a thick, purple cream you put into shampooed hair. You let it sit on your hair for five to ten minutes and then rinse it out. It’s supposed to tame the brassy/yellow color and restore it to platinum white. I packed it with the things I was taking to the boat this weekend, and headed to Door County. This morning, after my shower, I used the purple people eater cream, as directed, and busied myself for approximately seven and a half minutes. During which time, one of the marina dockhands stopped by with a question.

[look askance]

A few minutes after that embarrassing moment, Siri kindly told me it was time to rinse it out. I did so with optimism, and then ran to the mirror. I wanted to say abracadabra, presto change-o, but there were other words that made it out first. Now, instead of yellow hair with white highlights, I had yellow hair with purple highlights. No pictures this weekend, please.

One of the things I appreciate about God, besides His sense of humor, is His ability to show Himself in all the things around us. Hair is no exception. Here’s the moral of this story.

Sometimes, you just need to let your hair grow. Things happen in life that aren’t always pleasant, and we can’t fast forward our way through them. Sometimes, we just need to be patient within our present circumstances, while God is growing the things we are praying for. Trying to interfere and speed up the natural process can make the situation worse than before. And using purple people eater cream may only make you want to hide more. I should know.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14

Trust in God’s plan, and be patient. Just let your hair grow. 

Be blessed,
C.K.

Count the Cost

“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” Luke 14:28

When counting the cost of something, that may be our time, money, conveniences, etc. To live a life for Christ demands the sum of these. It’s all our material possessions, emotional comforts and physical well-being tossed onto the proverbial table. In our Scripture above, His analogy of building a tower is simple – Christ is not demanding anything of us. He simply instructs us to take inventory of what a life of service and discipleship will require, to ensure we can finish the job.

Imagine a road. Imagine its long and winding path, sheltered and encased by the branches of majestic trees, whose roots are deep with life. You are ready. Your eye is on the finish. With each step along the narrow path you’re drawn more forward by the longing in your spirit for the Greatness you know lies ahead at your destination. Along the way, you pick up weary travelers, lifeless in spirit. You tell them of this Greatness – that which can breathe life into them again, heal their wounds and satisfy any hunger. More and more follow. You assure them, where you’re going, there is plenty of room for all (John 14:2).

The journey is long and the bottoms of your shoes become worn. The night falls steadily, along with the hope that sparked your first steps. Your pace ceases as you find yourself staring dejectedly at the unexpected mountain before you. There is no way around this mountain. Only over it. To take such a journey of strength will require a lightened load and the use of your hands for climbing. This means abandoning all your possessions for the sake of the climb. Disillusionment creeps in as you are taunted by your own ill-preparedness. Fear tells you to turn around. In that moment, you’re faced with a choice that will impact not only your own life, but the lives of so many others.

In your weakness and fear, you turn. When you do, you are face to face with all the weary travelers who are following you, uncertain of why you stopped. As you pass through the sea of searching faces, your actions of retreat make words unnecessary. The travelers who were once filled with hope are now standing in silence, gazing back and forth between their retreating leader and the mountain before them. The cloaks of dejectedness and disillusionment are passed through the crowd as the vision of Greatness you spoke of fades with every step backwards you take. For many, hurt turns to anger and bitterness for leading them so far for nothing. They leave the path, never to return (2 Peter 2:21). Others ridicule you. For others, they continue to follow you, turning back to the place that took the life within them and made them weary in the first place.

But there is one. There is one who remains staring at the mountain. He takes his time to think about the journey and all it will require. When weighed against the reward of the Greatness that waits on the other side, there is no hesitation in his spirit (Isaiah 6:8). He gathers those who are still found motionless in the confusion and calls out to those who have already turned around to see if any will follow with him. They leave any unnecessary thing and, together, begin the climb.

Which one will you be?

Be blessed,
C.K.

Going Beyond

The Bible tells us we are to imitate Christ in all things. What about giving? I’m not talking about money. We are called to do that too, but the kind of giving I’m talking about today is the giving of ourselves to others.

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2

It can be really hard to die to self. We are born with a sin nature, and therefore we’re wired to think about ourselves first. Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I had a lot to do and not a lot of time to do it in, so I was in go mode. You know, that mode where your brain becomes a human scoreboard and winning means checking off all the boxes on your list. I typically perform exceedingly well in this mode. I’m focused. I have a plan. A good plan. I have things in my cart I didn’t even plan on getting and I’m still slightly ahead of schedule. There’s the checkout. And there’s a lane with the light on with no one in it. And it says, “We bag.” Jackpot.

Sometimes life throws elderly women at us.

I was making a quick bee line to the open lane when I saw her. She was coming from the opposite direction, and looking at the same open lane. My lane. And her cart was loaded.

Even though she was closer to it than I was, a quick round of mathematics told me I could easily make it there before she did. Train A is moving north at 4mph, at a distance of 30 feet from destination, while Train B is moving south at 2mph, at a distance of 15 feet and closing. If Train A increases speed to 5mph… you get the idea, and have now been made privy to the scarier parts of my thought processes.

I’m embarrassed to say I authorized Train A to increase speed. I was right. I did beat her to the lane, but there was no victory lap, for it was clear what I had done. I knew it. She knew it. The cashier knew it. The kid sitting in the cart one lane over, picking his nose, knew it. There was no relief. Only guilt and conviction. My cart got lighter as I unloaded it, but my heart got a lot heavier. 

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” Ephesians 3:20

Was that ridiculous and immature display of selfishness a good example of me doing immeasurably more? Definitely not. Not only was I selfish, but I was impatient too. We could probably throw a little bit of disrespect in there for good measure. It wasn’t even worth it because of how it made me feel. Selfishness never rewards as well as thoughtfulness.

You want to know what else bothered my heart after the fact? In addition to that just being plain rude, I found myself wondering if my doing what I did made her feel bad about herself. Did my actions cause her to feel slower than she should be or older than she wanted to be? I couldn’t help but wonder just what my actions caused her to feel. With a little patience, a smile, and a compliment, I could have made that moment feel very different for both of us.

We have opportunities all around us every single day to go above and beyond for people. My blog last week was about nature being a silent witness to the existence of God. So are our actions. As Christ followers, we are called to a higher level. Let an elderly person get in line in front of you. You could even help them lift something heavy out of their cart and onto the conveyer belt. There are a million little ways to go above and beyond if you’re looking.

This isn’t just for strangers. A great place to start is with the people we know and love. For example, how often do you go above and beyond for your spouse? Give them more than they ask for? My throw down for you today is to pray for an opportunity to do more for someone than they expect. It doesn’t have to be big. It could be as simple as helping a vertically challenged person (like me) get something off a high shelf, or paying for a stranger’s cup of coffee.

Let your actions be a silent witness. Do more. Be more. Why? Because Jesus was our example first.

Be blessed,
C.K.

Surrender

The following is taken from my new book, The Waiting Room, available for pre-order on Amazon. Only eBook is available for pre-order, but both eBook and paperback will be available for purchase when the book releases on June 18th.


“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.’” Matthew 16:24-45

I imagine the title alone may have sent waves of discomfort through you. It sure did to me for a number of years. As Christians, we like to sing about surrender, but walking that talk is a lot harder than it sounds on Sunday morning. If we look to Merriam-Webster to help us define surrender, we find the following:

“a: to yield to the power, control, or possession of another or b:to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another.”

When we surrender to God, we’re giving Him authority to exercise His sovereign judgment in our lives. To clarify, this isn’t God overruling our ability to have free will. It’s us giving to God what we think is best, in return for what He knows is best.

If you have kids, particularly teenagers, then you’re well aware of a thing I like to call the “Omni Effect.” The Omni Effect is the result of a child turning the age at which they know the answer to every question ever asked. They no longer need the wisdom of their parents because they’re smarter and far wiser in the ways of the world, despite experiencing only a fraction of what their parents have. They know what’s best, so they feel they should be able to do what they like. They believe the world has changed so dramatically, that we, as parents, couldn’t possibly be smart enough to guide and educate them.

Are you parents out there rolling your eyes yet? I thought so. This is a pretty easy concept for us to grasp, right? What if we applied this to our all-knowing God? News flash: we are those kids. We’re the ones who have experienced only a fraction of what God has. I don’t think we could even call it a fraction. That would be far too generous. He knows all because He created all. The Bible tells us every day was written before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). He’s the only One able to provide perfect guidance in perfect timing.

Perhaps the greatest testimony of surrender happens when we, amidst the charge of the enemy, lay down our shield, get on our knees, and lift our hands. It’s not a white flag we hold, but the offering of our will to God, whatever the outcome may be. To give yourself wholly and completely to the will of God, without regard to your own personal desires, is the epitome of surrender.

It’s also terrifying.

Why is it so scary? Why is there fear in surrender? We fall into the trap of fear when one of two things happen. The first is we believe the lies of the enemy. Satan doesn’t want you to be close to God. In fact, he wants nothing but misery and death for you (John 10:10). He’s going to whisper lies into your ear about why what God wants for you isn’t going to make you happy. He’s going to stir confusion and doubt. There’s a way to combat that. Fall on the Word. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). Search the Scriptures on what God has to say about your situation and who He created you to be.

The second reason we fall into fear is because we don’t know, or choose not to rely on, the character of our God. Do you know Him well enough to know He loves you beyond measure (Ephesians 3:17-19); that He, Himself is love (1 John 4:8)? Do you trust His heart enough to know He longs to bless you and give you every good thing (Psalm 37:4, Matthew 7:9-11)? It’s impossible for God to lie and it’s impossible for God to do anything outside the character of goodness. For these reasons, you can trust Him completely.

It’s a spiritual truth that you can never out-give God. If God’s asking you to give Him something, don’t place such a high value on it and cling to it for fear of losing the joy or security you think it brings. When you surrender it to God, you’ll find He returns something of even greater value. As I’ve often told my daughter, doing what’s asked of us isn’t the extent of obedience. God desires our right attitudes as well. The attitude of surrender should be one of prostration in the presence of an all-knowing God, comforted in the assurance that He knows what you don’t. He’ll only ask of you what He knows will ultimately lead to both your blessing and His glory. In keeping with our spiritual truth, God will never ask you for something and then return something less than you gave to Him.

Surrendering doesn’t make you weak. It’s what you do when you are weak, so God can be your strength. However difficult this may be for you, take your treasure – your money, time, job, relationship, food, home, hobbies, whatever He’s asking for – and lay it at His feet. He’ll return what you never thought possible, including freedom. Don’t be bound in slavery to the things you refuse to let go of out of fear. It’s keeping you from a greater blessing and a beautiful display of His Glory.

“Take delight in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Be blessed,
C.K.

Forget the Former Things

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

We all have expectations and desires for our tomorrows, but we sometimes allow our yesterdays to get in the way. No matter what your current situation in life, I pray this leaves you excited about the great things our God has waiting for you, as well as a changed perspective about where you’ve been. I’m excited to look with you in Isaiah, where we’ll learn about the amazing power of transformation available to us, and how God encourages us to keep our eye on the prize.

Visualize a wasteland. Webster defines this as “an ugly often devastated or barely inhabitable place or area.” Imagine what would happen if a stream of fresh, clean water is planted right in the middle of that wasteland. Over time, the ground around it begins to absorb the water. As the water spreads farther into the ground, it’s the catalyst for new life. Slowly, the seeds that once fell on hard and dry soil now have soft dirt to cultivate in. In a matter of time, what was once ugly and barren is full of lush, green life. When you choose to call God the Lord of your life, you are choosing life itself. You are allowing His living water to be deposited into the deepest part of you.

Let’s look to a common scientific principle – water was meant to flow. As you read His Word and spend time with Him, increasing your understanding of who God is and His will for you, that repository of water begins to flow, not only into every part of you but, into the lives of those around you. That water changes you. It changes your heart and transforms your mind (Romans 12:2). Transforming your mind and heart will transform your life. 

What prevents us from embracing the change and walking in transformation? Often times, it’s because we’re too busy dwelling on our past. You know the phrase, “the best predictor of the future is the past.” There’s usually no shortage of people reminding us of our mistakes and shortcomings. After hearing these messages enough times, we begin to believe the limitations others set for us.

God takes a different approach on things. He’s telling us to forget the former things. One of the amazing gifts afforded to us through our relationship with Christ is the ability to wipe our slates clean. If you’re in doubt, look at Paul’s story (Acts 9), and the amazing works he was able to do for Christ afterthe years he spent murdering Christians. I sometimes wonder what self-deprecating thoughts Paul had to overcome after his own transformation. How many times did he have to tell himself God was bigger than his murderous rampage of the brothers that were now his?

I’m not saying it’s easy to forget our past, but we must reconcile the misgiving that our failures make us unworthy. Sweet One, our being human makes us unworthy, but the power of Christ’s death and resurrection created a way for us to forget the former things and set ourselves on a new path.

Don’t let Satan use your past as a means to limit your future.

Understand our mistakes only serve to glorify the One who can make all things new (Romans 8:28-30). I believe this glory comes in two forms. The first is simple – Jesus saves. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done – there isn’t anything the cross didn’t overcome. When Jesus hung on that cross, bloody and beaten, he bore the pain and shame of every sin ever committed and yet to be committed. Nothing was forgotten. No one was forgotten.

The second form of glory is more subjective, but equally valuable – your story. Think of survivor stories and how individuals use those to inspire and motivate others. In our Christian walks, it’s vital for us to relate to others in a way that makes faith real and even tangible. We do this through sharing our stories and triumphs of overcoming sin and hardship. People need to know and believe we’ve walked in their shoes before they will trust what we say to them.

Being real about who we were before Christ transformed us, and the ways we fall on our face amidst our Christian walks today, serves to fortify the hope available for those who choose to believe.

Dwelling on your past will lead you back to a drought. Don’t forget the lessons in them, but don’t let your past limit your future. We serve an amazing God – able to do immeasurably more than we could possibly ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20-21). If God believes you can, shouldn’t you?

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? …. No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31, 37-39

Be blessed,
C.K.

Small Beginnings

“Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?” Zechariah 4:10

“What?”

After only a few sips of my morning coffee, that’s what I uttered out loud after reading the Scripture passage above. This is a good example of the types of verses that are easy to gloss over. We read it, but we’re not quite sure what we just read, so we shrug our shoulders and keep going. I’ll admit, that’s exactly what I did. Everything I had to do yesterday was already piling up in my mind, and it just seemed like too much of an inconvenience to stop and dig in. It was much easier to just keep reading and check the box on my quiet time for the day.

But God is good, and He knows what we need, when we need it. Every to-do item that ran around in my brain had a companion thought… “small things” … “capstone” … “hand of Zerubbabel.” Both curiosity and conviction got the better of me. I closed my to-do app, read the Scripture in context, and then opened my concordance and commentary apps. Boy, I’m sure glad I did.

First, a question. Do you ever find yourself looking around at small beginnings, and despising that they are small?

Second, a quick history lesson to set the stage. Stick with me. It will be worth it.

There was a great temple built in Jerusalem under King Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 6), which was destroyed about fifty years later by the Babylonians, under King Nebuchadnezzar, when they overtook the city. The Judean people were exiled for the next 30 years, until King Cyrus conquered the Babylonians, and permitted the Judean people to come back and rebuild their temple.

Zerubbabel was one of the first Jews to return. He was appointed Governor of Judah, and immediately began the rebuild. It took him two years to lay the foundation, and had to deal with opposition and false accusations, which caused leadership to pull their support. There it sat, for seventeen years. Nothing. Enter stage right a couple of prophets sent to encourage, and four years later the temple rebuild was finally complete.

You’d think twenty-three years of work would get you a gigantic sphinx with Zerubbabel’s head carved into it. Not so much. It was recorded to be much less grand in stature than its predecessor, Solomon’s temple. Author’s commentary: It was smaller. Laughably smaller. Is laughably a word?

Okay, here’s my insight. 

It didn’t really matter if it was smaller than the first temple, because it was significant in a completely different way. It signified the rebirth of life and freedom for the Jews after experiencing a devastating exile. Here’s something more. The first temple was built under forced labor. This one was built by the people and for the people – the same people who vowed to maintain it because they were passionate about it. What I found equally interesting is, although this temple was smaller, it became more central to the Judean people as a point of their history than Solomon’s temple was. After what they had experienced, they knew what this temple represented.

So, why do we care about all this? Take a deep breath with me, and realize this is the story of many of our lives.

Whether it’s your faith, your finances, a relationship, a job, or a dream… maybe you had something you thought was really great – either in idea or action. Then life happened, sending you off course, and leaving you feeling lost. You had to deal with opposition – whether it happened to you or because of you. Maybe for a year. Maybe for twenty-three years. Maybe it felt like a full-on exile.

It doesn’t matter where you’ve been or where you are now. God is calling you out of that exile to rebuild. And if you’re already trying to rebuild and there’s opposition, just keep laying one stone at a time. Use the things you learned and the ways you grew as the mortar for each of those stones.

When you do start laying stones, don’t look around discouraged and despise small beginnings. They are the foundation for what can lead to something of even greater significance than what you had before.

Our beginning Scripture says not to despise the day of small things, and that the eyes of the Lord will rejoice when they see the capstone in Zerubbabel’s hand. A capstone is any of the stones making up the top layer of the wall. God has a plan for your life. Every plan starts out small, but if you keep laying one stone at a time, before you know it, you’ll be holding a capstone. And heaven will be rejoicing with you. It will be worth every step of your journey.

Be blessed,
C.K.