A few years ago I was able to visit Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine (John 2). In the church there, they have a giant stone jar similar to what would have been used in that day. They hold about 20 gallons of water. Our guide, who was a Jewish rabbi, told us that it was important that these jars were made of stone because if it had been any other material, the wine would have been ritually unclean for the Jews attending the wedding. The day before, we had been to Nazareth and heard that the word carpenter didn’t just mean He worked with wood as it does today. Back then, it could have also meant He worked with stone. As I have thought about these two things, my mind can’t help but go to 1 Peter 2:5 where we are called “living stones”. I believe that Jesus’ first miracle was a representation of what He wants to do in us. He wants to supernaturally transform our lives on the inside.
Ephesians 4:23-24 says, “Now it’s time to be made new by every revelation that’s been given to you. And to be transformed as you embrace the glorious Christ-within as your new life and live in union with him! For God has re-created you all over again in his perfect righteousness, and you now belong to him in the realm of true holiness” (TPT). When we embrace Christ within us, the transformation happens just like the water was turned to wine when the servants embraced what Jesus said by taking a pitcher of the water from the stones to the master of ceremonies. The inward transformation takes place instantly when we receive Christ. Becoming a new creation is a process for most of us. People may see our rough, stoney exterior still, but God is changing that too starting from the inside out.
Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you]” (AMP). Your life is being progressively changed through Christ. If God’s still working on you helping your outside to match what’s inside, you’re not alone. We’re all being made new day by day as we embrace what God has done in us and allow Him to transform us from the inside out. Jesus has turned your water into wine. Now let Him, as the stone carpenter, continue to transform you into who He created you to be.
Photo credit: me while in Cana Israel showing the type of jars Jesus would have used.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
In Joshua 4, as the Israelites were crossing the Jordan, God told them to get 12 stones from the middle of the riverbed. He wanted them to set up a memorial that would remind them of what He did. You find several stories like this in the Bible. God knows we tend to forget what He’s done in the past for us. We don’t need to set up stones around town, but we do need to find a way to create something that will remind us of all God has done for us so we don’t forget. When troubles come, we can look at it and grow our faith knowing that God came through in the past and believe He will again. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. What He’s done before, He will do again. Don’t forget it.
Here are some Bible verses on never forgetting what God has done.
1. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.
Genesis 28:22 NLT
2. Only pay attention and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things which your eyes have seen and they do not depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your grandchildren [impressing these things on their mind and penetrating their heart with these truths].
Deuteronomy 4:9 AMP
3. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
Psalm 103:2 ESV
4. For perpetuity God’s ways will be passed down from one generation to the next, even to those not yet born. In this way, every generation will set its hope in God and not forget his wonderful works but keep his commandments.
Psalms 78:6-7 TPT
5. But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.
My friend and I were discussing shame last week and all the effects it has on believers. It’s a mental prison that incarcerates too many people. So many of us remember our past vividly, even though we’ve been forgiven of it and set free from it. Our enemy uses the shame of what we’ve done to tell us that we’re not qualified or worthy to be a Christian or to do any ministry. He tells us, “If they knew what you’ve done, they wouldn’t be so nice to you.” When those mental attacks come, many of us go running back to what we’ve been set free from or we run into the prison of shame. This is not God’s plan for you.
The book of Exodus chronicles the children of Israel leaving Egypt. God set them free from their slavery and off they went marching through the Red Sea. They were making great progress until they experienced the mental attacks in the desert. Over and over they were held captive by their past because they romanticized their prison. Numbers 14:4 says, “So they said to one another, ‘Let’s choose a leader and go back to Egypt!’” (GNT) Even though that had been set free, they were willing to give up the promises God had given them and return to slavery. That’s exactly what shame does. It makes us turn from God, the one who can help us, and desire the thing He’s set us free from.
Galatians 5:1 says, “At last we have freedom, for Christ has set us free! We must always cherish this truth and firmly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past” (TPT). You have been set free and forgiven from your past. It is your testimony, not your shame. We overcome by the word of our testimony. Don’t let the enemy keep you quiet, cause you to be ineffective or have you return to it. The truth is that if others knew what you’ve been set free from, their faith in God would grow, others who are fighting that battle would have courage to trust God and you will possess the promised land. You have been miraculously set free! Walk in your freedom and refuse to return to the prison of your past.
I miss testimony nights at church. When I was growing up, at least one Sunday night a month, we would have testimony night. People would line up waiting to tell, what God had done for them. There was always one lady who would get up and say the same thing each time. Sometimes kids would get up there and freeze when it was their turn, but there were always people who called out specific things God had done for them. On those nights, we left church with our faith boosted because we knew God had answered prayers for people we knew. Those services were a way to remember what God had done in the lives of people.
I think that’s why the Psalms resonate with so many of us. They’re prayer requests and testimonies of God’s faithfulness. A read through them is like going to testimony night. David, and the other authors, were so good at calling out all God had done for them. Sometimes they would write about the faithfulness of God from the times of old. Men and women would build altars to God as a way to honor Him and to remember what He had done for them so that future generations would know. Even the Passover meal that is still celebrated today is a way to look back and remember what God did.
Exodus 13:14 says, “And in the future, your children will ask you, ‘What does all this mean?’ Then you will tell them, ‘With the power of his mighty hand, the Lord brought us out of Egypt, the place of our slavery’” (NLT). Future generations need to know about God’s faithfulness to you. What are you doing to record it or remember it for yourself? Keep a journal, write them an email or record a video of it, but do something that tells of the goodness of God. Be specific about what He’s done for you, the prayers He’s answered and the dreams He’s fulfilled. We don’t build altars anymore, nor do we have testimony night. We need to do something to create reminders for ourselves and future generations that God answers prayers and is actively involved in our lives.
In Genesis 21, Abraham had been living in the Promised Land as a foreigner for a while. After he made a treaty with Abimelech, verse 33 says, “Then Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he worshiped the LORD, the Eternal God” (NLT). I don’t know if Abimelech was there for the planting or if it was just a sign to God, but it was no coincidence that he planted a tamarisk tree given the promise God had made to him about that land.
According to nps.gov, the tamarisk tree is an invasive tree that spreads rapidly. It has the ability to survive in harsh conditions. It is very adaptable to whatever conditions it faces. I can’t think of a better tree that depicts the Israelites and God’s plan for them. God had given them that land, and Abraham had been given the promise that he would have as many descendants as there were stars. His family would flourish and spread throughout that region one day.
The tree is also representative of how we as Christians are to be. God did not plant us where we are in order to be quiet about our faith. He expects us to advance the Gospel rapidly, even in the harsh conditions we live in today. In Mark 16:15, Jesus told us, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” He wanted us to be invasive with His message. It has never been about waiting for someone to come to you with questions about your faith. It has always been about us being proactive.
The tamarisk tree is also a survivor. It adapts to be able to thrive in the harshest conditions. Throughout history, it’s been in the harshest conditions that the Gospel has spread the most. With the social pressures and unfriendly conditions towards Christianity that we face today, you can expect that the Gospel is about to spread rapidly once again. We must be adaptable in the face of such pressure instead of allowing it to shut us down. As history begins to repeat itself, we need to be prepared for another Great Awakening.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
In Mark 4, Jesus and the disciples got in a boat and headed for shore on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. On the way, Jesus took a nap to recover from ministering all day. While they were somewhere in the middle, a storm arose and threatened to sink the ship. The disciples woke Jesus up because they were afraid they’d capsize. Jesus then rebuked the winds and waves and the storm calmed down. That’s pretty cool, but it’s the rest of the story I want to look at today.
They later arrived in the town they were headed to. A madman came running to Jesus, bowed down, but then the legion of demons in him took over. Jesus cast them out into a heard of pigs, who then ran off a cliff and drowned. The man, in his right mind, then asked to follow Jesus, but was turned down. In Mark 5:19, Jesus said, “Go home to your own people. Tell them your story—what the Master did, how he had mercy on you” (MSG).
I love the fact that Jesus crossed over the Sea just God this one man. He knew where He was going and what He needed to do. The storm arose to try to stop Him, but His love compelled Him to calm the storm and keep going. Then, once the man was free, Jesus sent him out to tell his story. There’s no telling how many became believers because of this man’s obedience to tell others how he’d been set free.
If you’re a believer, you’ve been set free and have a story to tell. Only you can tell that story with the greatest impact. You have friends and family that need to hear it so they can find their salvation. Our mission is not to quietly follow Jesus. It’s to go to those we know and have a relationship with (your own people), and to tell our story. You may encounter storms that try to stop you, but keep going. Eternity hangs in the balance for them, and your story could be what they need to hear to find salvation.
One of the things I firmly believe is that changed lives change lives. The greater work that God does in someone’s life, the greater the desire is to tell others. In Luke 7, Jesus was eating at the house of a religious leader. A woman in town, who had lived a sinful life, heard that Jesus was there. She grabbed an alabaster jar of oil and went to see Him. When she came into the house, she began to weep. She then bowed at His feet and wiped the tears off of them with her hair. She then poured the perfume on them as everyone in the house just watched.
The religious leader began to doubt who Jesus was. Luke 7:39 says, “When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man really were a prophet, he would know who this woman is who is touching him; he would know what kind of sinful life she lives!’” (GNB). Jesus spoke up and offered a situation to him. He told of two men who owed the same person money. One person owed 500 and the other 50. Neither had the ability to pay off their debt. The debtor forgave both debts. Then Jesus asked, “Which one, then, will love him more?”
Jesus’ point was that those who are forgiven of more sins, love Him more. Those who experience a greater change in their lives show more gratitude. They had a bigger debt that was canceled than those who were raised in church and never lived a life full of sin. Both types of lives are changed when they receive Jesus as their savior and both have an obligation from that point on to help lead others to the One who can change lives. He more change we experience at salvation, the more we are compelled by love to help others.
To demonstrate this, Jesus then showed a comparison between this woman’s actions and the religious leader’s actions. He told how the religious leader hasn’t provided water to wash Jesus’ feet, but this woman hasn’t stopped washing them with her tears. He also didn’t greet Jesus with a kiss, and this woman hasn’t stopped kissing Him. Then in Luke 7:47, Jesus said, “I tell you, then, the great love she has shown proves that her many sins have been forgiven. But whoever has been forgiven little shows only a little love.”
The greater the change God makes in your life, the more natural it is for you to want to change other’s lives. The great news is that if you’re a Christian, God has changed your life and you have the ability to now tell others what God has done for you. When you share your story of redemption with others, you open the door for their life to be changed. The more lives that are changed by God’s love, the more people we will have out there changing other people lives. The cycle of change starts with you and me.
In our small group, we are reading through “Good to Great in God’s Eyes” by Chip Ingram. Last night we were discussing the chapter “Pray Great Prayers”. As we were talking about keeping a prayer journal, my wife mentioned that because of the digital age, that’s something our kids are missing out on. The vast majority aren’t keeping journals. Because they aren’t, they can’t flip through pages to see where they thought the world was going to come to an end and then it didn’t. They don’t have a record of the ways that God has moved in their life.
In the chapter we discussed, Chip mentioned that he keeps a prayer journal where he writes down things that are too big for him to handle. By writing them down, he is transferring them over to God. He said he also leaves a little space under each one so that when it gets answered, he can put a note in there. When his faith needs a boost, he goes back through that journal to remind himself of the times when he was faced with the impossible and then he reads the notes below it where God answered. It helps him when he faces other impossible situations.
As we discussed that, we began to talk about how we remember years ago when churches would have testimony time. It’s something that’s missing from our modern church. I believe it’s something that is still necessary. Scripture says that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. We need to hear the stories of what God is doing in people’s lives. We need to see His hand at work around us. It reminds us that He’s still listening and that whatever we are facing, isn’t too big for God.
We then went around the room and shared stories of a God answering prayers, big and small. Each person in our group could point to a time when God answered. That built my faith up. God knows your need and He hears your prayers. You don’t have to use your prayers to try to persuade God to move in your favor. You simply need to make your requests known to Him. Call out the promises He has made in His Word. Remind Him of what He’s done for others. Your heartfelt prayers touch the heart of God. Your need is not too big and it’s not too small. He’s not so concerned with everything else in the world that He doesn’t have time for you or your needs.
If you need your faith built today, ask someone what God has done for them. Ask them what prayers He has answered. If He’s answered something, then tell others. They need to hear what He has done for you. Your testimony will help them be an overcomer in their situation. If you don’t know who to tell, then use the comments below to share what God has done for you. People will read it and be blessed. God still moves today. God still answers prayers. Tell Him what you need, He’s listening right now.
“Always remember” became a rally cry after the initial 9/11 attacks. Today, my Facebook feed is full of people remembering where they were that morning. They recall what they were doing and how they felt. Each of us who were alive that day have a story of when and how we found out. For one day out of the year, we share that story and post it for all to see. I can’t help but think what would happen if the world’s Christian population did the same thing with when and how they came to know Jesus. What would our Facebook feed look like then?
Imagine the testimonies that would be read on such a day. Think of those who you’ve never told about your faith, but wish you had the guts to. Something like that could change lives forever. I go to church with lots of people, but I don’t know most of their testimonies of how they were called out of the life they were living. It would be so encouraging to read the ways that God reached into someone’s life and brought them from despair to hope. It would be incredible to see how many were raised in church and stayed true to the faith they were handed down.
I know it’s kind of a pipe dream to think that we would all do this one day, but I also think dreams are how things get started. When is the last time any of us shared our testimony publicly? When is the last time we let anyone know what God did for us? Why do we keep silent about it? When it first happened, we couldn’t shut up about this amazing feeling if redemption and forgiveness. Now we scared to open our mouths even among fellow believers to share what God is doing. How did that happen?
For me, I was raised in church. I first gave my heart to The Lord at 7 during a children’s crusade given by a former biker who used the loss of limbs from an accident to become Captain Hook. He shared of God’s hidden treasure and how we needed to seek Him like that hidden treasure. I knew then that I wanted to spend a lifetime seeking that treasure. When life got complicated, I quit searching for that treasure. I got lost in the cares of this world. Things in my life went from bad to worse. My wife left me and I lost my business.
After that, I went to a bar every night 7 days a week to help me forget the pain and to help me sleep. One night, a guy I knew from high school sat down beside me at that bar and asked why I was in a bar. I told him everything that happened. When I looked for sympathy, he gave me none. He stood up and said, “I’m not going to sit here and drink with you. You’ve given up and that’s not the Chris I knew. I don’t want to see you like this.” He got up and walked out. All of a sudden everything became clear. I was in a rut and hiding from the God who was seeking me.
I left and never went back. I began seeking that treasure once again. I owned up to the mistakes I made, dealt with my past and started to move forward. I rebuilt on the foundation that had been laid as a child. I will always remember that night when God used that man to call me out of darkness and back into His light. I’m thankful that I wasn’t left wallowing in self pity. I could have wasted more years of my life not seeking Him, but God wouldn’t let me.
That’s mine in a nutshell. What’s yours? If we can’t fill up Facebook with our testimonies, maybe we can share them here. I love hearing how God called each person individually. Always remember what He did for you and never be scared to share it.
If you are perfect, then you don’t have to read this today. If you are a flawed failure like me, you can keep reading. The good news is that you are just who God is looking for to use. He rarely picks anyone perfect to carry out His plan. If you look at the list of people God has used to do great things through, it’s full of flawed failures. It’s full of people who you probably wouldn’t want to work with.
Moses knew his own flaws and tried to use them as an excuse to not do what God was asking him to do. He stuttered. He murdered. He ran away. He was orphaned as a baby. He had excuses. God sees our excuses as opportunities to connect with others. He sees our flaws as ways to build dependence on Him. He’s ok with you not measuring up to what you think He wants. You actually have what He wants. That’s why He chose you to do His will.
Each of us have a purpose to fulfill. God has a desire to use you despite your flaws and excuses. He has a purpose for your life that only you can fulfill. God is not concerned with your past if you’ve gone to Him for forgiveness. He’s taken your past into account when He planned your future. He knew the struggles you were going to face. He knew where and how you were going to fail and still planned to use you. It’s hard for us to understand because what disqualifies us humanly somehow qualifies us spiritually.
God’s ways are higher than our ways. What we consider wise is foolishness to Him. When we point to the scars, disappointment, failures and sin, He points to the cross. It’s in our weakness that He can truly work. If we rely on our strengths and abilities, we get in His way. When we think we can’t or shouldn’t be used by Him, we are ready to be used by Him. If we had the ability to do it on our own, we wouldn’t rely on Him.
Look at Gideon. When he was approached by the angel, he was greeted with, “The Lord is with you, mighty man of God.” He had strength to accomplish what God wanted. He had the ability and the man power to do it. God took those things away from him so that he would not be able to say it was his ability that defeated the enemy. It could only be The Lord that allowed 300 men to defeat an entire army.
God can and will use our strengths, but He’s really interested in our flaws and failures. He uses those to bring healing to others and to show them that He can use them too. Be open about your past. Tell others about your scars. Your story (testimony) brings hope and healing to others. When you hide who you were, you hide the grace that God bestowed on you. Others need to see that God can forgive a past that’s dark and full of sin. Others need to see that God can use someone as flawed as you.