What Are You Afraid to Lose?

Those crazy Christians! Have you ever wondered why some Christians seem to be a little…over the top? Their Facebook posts are always Bible verses or Christian blogs or some quote that makes you roll your eyes a little bit? Well, if so, I used to think like you. But now I am that other person! A “crazy Christian.” What happened?! I hit a point in my life when I finally had nothing else to lose–or so I thought. But I ended up losing more than I imagined while gaining more than I ever hoped for. Let me explain:

After a series of events, I found myself in a strange place.  (I’ve blogged about most of these events on this site–just search “Jamie” if you’re curious to read more about my journey.) My life was changing in a huge way and I was losing control!

I lost the “it” neighborhood. I lost the big house on the cul-de-sac. I lost status. I lost control of a lot of things that I’d been clinging to for most of my adult life.  I lost the country club membership.  I lost the nights of partying and living it up until the wee hours of the morning. I lost lazy Sunday mornings of lying around and not having to go anywhere. I lost my life as I knew it.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

To live is Christ? To die is gain? I have finally discovered the meaning of this verse. To live is Christ: My life is so different–in the best way possible–since I discovered the importance of a real, two-way relationship with Jesus. He loved me all along and I was too afraid to lose my old self to follow Him. I was afraid to go all-in because I wanted to control everything. I could not even fathom how much freedom there could be by surrendering it all.

To die is gain: The old me is officially dead. (Hallelujah!) I never would have believed how awesome a new life could be!  It’s hard to imagine that someone could be happier than ever after losing so much, right?

Let It Go
There are people in my life who I really care about that are afraid to lose those their current life. I mean, it’s scary to surrender control and let go when you don’t know what God has in store. But I lost even more while seeking a closer relationship with the God of the universe:

I lost credit card debt. I lost the mortgage I couldn’t afford. I lost the morning after hangovers. I lost negative influences in my life. I lost the thoughts that my life had no purpose. I lost feelings of hopelessness and fear of the future. I lost the desire to conform to the world around me.

What are you afraid to lose? Friends? Freedom? Your identity? Control? I know someone who is afraid that if she surrenders her life fully to God, she’ll “have to” give up drinking. Or “have to” stop smoking.  She is afraid she’ll lose her reputation as the fun girl. I know a guy who thinks that his foul mouth is just “who he is” and is afraid the church people will try to “make him” stop. He is also afraid that he’ll “have to” give his money to the church. I have another friend who is so afraid to lose control of her plans for her future, that she won’t allow God to come close enough to alter them. Can you relate?

Are you holding back from experiencing the life God intended for you? Maybe you attend church, but you won’t join a group. Maybe you joined a group, but you won’t open up about your struggles. Maybe you are fine with checking the boxes of Christianity but you think those people who raise their hands in worship are crazy and showing off. (Maybe they are. But maybe they love Jesus like some people love their sports team or favorite band? Who knows–but why not give it a try? What will you lose?) What exactly is it that is keeping you from going all-in?

Sweet friends, please believe that when you choose to let go of your pride (among other things), you will gain amazing joy, purpose, freedom, friendships, and so much more! God is just waiting for you to decide that you want it. It’s yours for the taking! God designed you to live abundantly–with purpose. Not just to survive this life feeling insignificant. If you are struggling to find happiness, maybe you are just looking in all the wrong places?

How “Have To” Becomes “Want To”

What are your desires? Sometimes we feel like God must not love us because He never gives us what we want.  However, here’s the other thing I learned through this journey: Maybe God knows what’s best for you–and your current desires may actually be bad for you.

“Take delight in the Lord,
    and (then) he will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 37:4 (“then” added)

So how do we change our desires? Let Him do it! But first, take delight in Him. But how, you ask? Start by seeking God. Look for His presence. He’s all around you–even in the little details. Thank Him for every good thing in your life. Seek Him by reading the Bible. Talk to Him–He hears everything you say. You don’t have to get all prim and proper with Him. Prayers can be like conversations–He loves to hear us acknowledge Him.  All of these things are delightful to the Lord. The more you seek Him, the more your desires will begin to change into the things that actually bring you joy. Pure joy. You won’t “have to” give up anything.  Christianity isn’t about rules–it’s about relationship.  What wouldn’t you do for the one you love with all your heart? God will give you the desires of your heart when you transform your heart first.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Matthew 6:33-34

Oh God, may I continue to seek you first each and every day of my life. Thank you for your mercy and grace that I so desperately needed to get past my past. Thank you for sending your son, Jesus, to rescue us from the struggles of this life. May your presence be evident to everyone who reads this. Please Lord, ignite a fire in their hearts to seek you and take delight in you. Transform their hearts to want what you want and to experience the abundant life that you planned for them! In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen!



Change Starts at the Top

Are you like me, and of the mindset that change must start from the top?  Guess what…we are right (that never gets old!), and I can prove it.  It’s actually Biblical!

In my recent study of the book of Exodus, I saw the biblical principle of top down transformation.  I really liked the beginning when God instructs Moses, via a burning bush, to return to Egypt to rescue His people, then God hardens Pharaoh’s heart, there are some plagues, the Red Sea parts, the people of Israel wander around and build idols while Moses is meeting with God, we get the Ten Commandments, and the Tabernacle is constructed. Whewww… a lot happens in Exodus!

Exodus begins with the gloom of an enslaved nation of Israelites, and ends with the glory of a freed people, now following God’s presence in the wilderness.  Do you know how the people knew when God was dwelling in the Tabernacle?  A cloud came down and settled over it!  (Exodus 40:34-38, Numbers 9:15-23)  Some translations read that a pillar of smoke came down upon the Tabernacle.  That word down is very important…it reveals that the event was driven by God.  We all know smoke rises, so, if the cloud of smoke had started at the bottom and carried up, then people would probably have doubted that it was truly God.  There would have been conspiracies that man created the smoke within the Tabernacle.  But, praise be to God, the cloud/smoke came down!

That’s not the only time God came down to be with us.  Remember when God came down to walk and talk with Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 3?  How about when God sent his most perfect Son Jesus down to be with us?  Change was afoot, and it was coming from the top down!  Jesus came down to teach us of God’s love for us and to be the perfect atonement for our sins.  How’s this for change?  When Jesus died on the cross, God tore the curtain in the sanctuary of the temple…wait for it…from the top down!!! (Mark 15:38)  Now this was a heavy, 70 foot long curtain.  Only God could have done that!  It also occurred on Passover, so there were plenty of witnesses to attest to the fact that man had nothing to do with that curtain being torn. It was Jesus’ blood that created a change, His blood was shed to create a gateway for us to have a relationship with God.  Now, because of Jesus, we can all enter into the presence of God, as our own representatives and not just on the Day of Atonement.  (See Hebrews Chapter 9 and 10 for more info on this!)

Are you currently in need of some kind of change in your life?  Start at the top!

“….The Lord will stay with you as long as you stay with Him!  Whenever you seek Him, you will find Him.  But if you abandon Him, He will abandon you.” 2 Chronicles 15:2

“Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:6

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33

So how do we apply this to our everyday issues?  Yep…start at the top!  I can’t tell you how many times my co-blogger Jamie has told me “emotions follow choices!”  I can’t tell her how many times (it was a lot!) I wanted to smack her for her always cheerful, sound advice…but, even though it took me a while, I must say she is right!  Let me give you a personal example:

I recently had a thought one day that ‘there has to be more to life, there has be more that I am supposed to be doing.’  With this thought, I experienced an overwhelming feeling of emptiness and fear in my heart.  I chose to believe a lie and I felt like a failure as a result.  I realized, however, this was an attack by the enemy.  He was attacking my contentment.  He was causing me to focus on all that I don’t have or haven’t done, rather than all that I do have and have accomplished.  I needed to change the way I was thinking and I knew I needed to start at the top!  As soon as I realized this, I sought God.  I asked Him to forgive me for my ungratefulness and to strengthen me in repenting and fighting future attacks like this from the enemy.  I had to choose to focus my thoughts on being grateful to God.  I had to choose to see my situations, my family, my home, everything I have and everything I am as a blessing from God. I had to choose to change, with help from the top (God), at the location of the top (mind/thoughts), to drive change at a lower level (heart/feelings/emotions).  Guess what…so far, the change has stuck!  The enemy has not tempted me with this again.  BUT, that doesn’t mean he won’t…I will have to choose again and again to sustain the change from the top!

This can be applied to other issues as well…if you are struggling with pride, seek God and choose humility; if you are struggling to forgive, seek God and choose to remember you have been forgiven for far more; if you are struggling with fear, seek God and chose faith; etc.  Emotions follow choices and you need the power from “up top” to guide and change your choices to align with His will.

Father, we seek you above all else.  We ask that you help us change into the new creation you would have us to be by allowing our soul to receive your life giving change from the top down.  Remind us of your loving presence in the midst of our storms, so that we will develop the endurance and perseverance to await your top down driven change in our lives.  Through your Son we pray.  Amen.



Transformed: Glory to Glory

Somewhere around 2002, I heard a Third Day song called “Show Me Your Glory.” Over the years, the lyrics of that song have streamed in and out of my thoughts like a fond memory. “I know I’ll never be the same… Show me your glory, send down your presence, I want to see your face.” Something would stir inside me every time it would come on the radio in my car. I longed to know what that meant. What would that look like? What did it mean for God to show me His glory? What exactly was “glory” anyway?

The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away.  Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life?
2 Corinthians 3: 7-8 (NLT)

The old way? Laws etched in stone? Death? Greater glory? I spent a really long time wanting to know about His glory, but I was basically living like the Israelites. My heart was more like stone—hard and bitter. About 12 years went by from when I first heard that song until I truly began to understand what it meant.  But during those years, at some point, I pretty much just gave up on ever seeing God’s glory. I tried to earn it for a couple of years. But the harder I worked at being a good Christian, the more I struggled. I couldn’t get out of my own way. I so desperately wanted to see God’s glory and have this mind-blowing, life-altering transformation, but I still just couldn’t comprehend exactly what that meant.

Apparently, a lot of people desire transformation but don’t really know how to get their desired results. Right before I began this amazing journey of spiritual transformation, I was chosen to lead a Supply Chain Transformation Team at work.  I was really hopeful at first. My team had big plans to change our processes and systems. We were going to alter the business models and make big changes in order to improve the way we operated. But over time, my hope began to fade. None of the changes were catching on. People didn’t seem interested in transforming anything at all. I started to realize that very little of my hard work would actually come to fruition. It took me a while to figure out why, but in the end, I wasn’t all that surprised by the answer: people.  People, in general, really don’t like change—and if you want them to change the way they operate, you need to get them to change their attitude.

Trying to encourage others to transform their attitude is one of the hardest jobs ever! I can’t help but wonder how frustrated God can be when His people so desperately want their circumstances to change, yet, they are not willing to change their attitudes first.

We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.     2 Corinthians 3:13-15 (NLT)

In the Old Testament, we learn about Moses and the Israelites working hard to see the glory of the Lord. In Leviticus 9:6, Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded you to do, so that the glory of the Lord may appear to you.”  There were so many rules and sacrifices; do this and that and then you might catch a glimpse of His glory. But even if you got to see it—it was overwhelming. Moses even had to cover his face with a veil because it was just too much for the people to take in even though they desired it. Wow! I had an Old Testament attitude about how to see (earn) God’s glory. Not only did I have a hard heart, but my mind was hardened too, just like the Israelites. Thankfully, God knew we would be desperate for His glory and so lovingly gave us another way…

Jesus! Jesus came and transformed the way we should think about glory. The veil that Moses needed to cover his face—to hide the glory—has been removed forever. Jesus took it away! I always believed that Jesus lived and died and rose again. I mean, I grew up in church and knew all the Bible stories. I sang Hallelujah every year at Easter, lit advent candles and could recite the Christmas Story. But I needed a transformation in my heart (and a shift in my attitude) to fully understand that Jesus was not just a person in history, but His Spirit lives in me. I can actually have a relationship with Him and His power can actually live inside me!

I just love God’s sense of humor. While I was the leader of a “transformation team,” I received the best transformation of all. After a co-worker randomly prayed over me (read about that here), I began to seek God everywhere and in everything. I drew close to Him—and he drew close to me. I started a devotional called, “What Happens When Women Walk in Faith,” by Lysa TerKeurst and slowly began to change my attitude as I learned what faith looked like and how I could live it out in my own life. “Transformation” was no longer about my job (*and not about how hard I worked), it was about my attitude and my willingness to be transformed by the Holy Spirit.

But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.  2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (NLT)

Praise God for giving us the most incredible gift: Glory that lives inside me! I no longer have to seek it—I can reflect it!

Oh, my loving Heavenly Father, you are so kind and patient with us. Forgive me for my bad attitude and my desire to earn a glimpse of your glory by trying to do things on my own. Thank you so much for your precious son, Jesus! Because of His blood, we are no longer behind a veil and we can see your glory. Help us to shift our attitudes and open our hearts to receive your loving kindness. May our transformations be evident for all to see—as we not only catch a glimpse of your glory, but we reflect it for others to see as well. Amen.


When God Says, “None of the Above”

Today’s Guest Post is written by our dear friend, Rebecca Hill.  Rebecca is a dedicated wife and loving mother who has been on an incredible journey of Freedom over the last couple of years. We love to hear her transformation stories and thankfully, she agreed to share her most recent one with all of us. Please welcome her to Truth and  Transformation!

Between a rock and hard place.  Ever been there?  Nothing gets my over-analytical, OCD, control freak mind racing like having to make a decision between two seemingly terrible choices.  So I’ll give you one guess where I tend to find myself most of the time……. Yep.  Between a rock and a hard place.

Have you ever read Proverbs 3:5?  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.”  What does that even mean???  Do you know how many times I’ve read that verse and wracked my brain trying to figure out how one merely “trusts in the Lord with all their heart?”  What does that look like?  How do you do that?  And what about those situations where choice (A) and choice (B) both seem terrible?

I was recently in one of these situations.  To give you some background, I am a wife, a mother of four, and an attorney.  I practiced law for nine years until the day my fourth child was born.  For those nine grueling years, I begged God – BEGGED – to be able to stay home with my children.  But no matter how hard I tried to make that happen, it never did.  That is, until baby #4 arrived.  Because of some family circumstances, daycare for our newborn was completely not an option, and I found myself in my dream-come-true.  I was able to stay home with my babies for the first time ever.  Oh how I loved it!

But… (There’s always a “but,” isn’t there?)  Anytime you cut an entire income out of a two income family, it is hard.  That was definitely the case for us.  Although we’ve been able to make it work for the last two years, my husband and I recently started kicking around the idea of me returning to the workforce.  Within days of that discussion, I had three different job opportunities.  Problem was, none of them were the right fit for our family.  So there I was, between a rock and hard place.  Do we: (A) stick it out and deal with the stress and frustration of an overly tight budget, or (B) suck it up and take on a job that would mean I’d go from seeing my kids 12 hours a day to 2 hours a day.  Is that even a choice??

So what did I do?  Well, in typical Rebecca fashion, I pitched a fit to God.  Believe me when I say I am NOT proud of this.  But it’s the truth.  And the sad thing is, that tends to be my normal reaction.  I get super frustrated and cry out to God asking “WHY?”  I tell Him all the great ways He can “fix” this (because, you know, He obviously needs my help), and then cry and beg and cry and beg.  It’s pathetic, honestly.  This time, however, I did something I had never really done before – I got honest with God.  In times past, although I would cry out to God, I still bottled up my true emotions.  For one reason or another, I’d always felt like it was disrespectful, or rude, or ungrateful to tell God how I really feel.  But over the last year, I’ve been on a spiritual journey in which I’ve grown closer to God than I’ve ever been in my 35 years of living.  So this time, I decided to treat Him like the Father that He consistently tells me in Scripture that He is.

On Day 2 of this royal hissy fit of mine, I just opened up and said, “God, I am really, REALLY disappointed.  I wanted to stay home for SO long, and you allowed me to do that, and now it feels like you’re ripping that away again.  And I really just don’t understand.”  I kid you not, the second the words came out of my mouth, I became acutely aware of the Bible cartoon movie that my kids were watching in the room next to me.  Immediately, I heard them talking about the story of Abraham being called to sacrifice his son Isaac, and the very next words were “God didn’t really want Abraham’s son.  He just wanted to know that Abraham was willing to give up anything for God.”………………………………………………………………………………….……………………………………………………………………………………………………… (Consider this my stunned silence as I realized I just got schooled by a cartoon.)

This is the part of the story where I dried my eyes, put on my big girl panties, and decided to stop throwing a fit.  As if the cartoon being more mature than me weren’t enough, I also still had to prepare my small group lesson for the week on the topic of . . . wait for it . . . SURRENDER.  Fun times.  As I sat down to begin, our theme verse jumped right out at me:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding

Oh good grief, are you kidding??  This is no time to throw the hard verses at me, God.  But this time, I noticed the next verse:

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

That’s when it hit me.  Acknowledge.  The key to trusting God with all my heart, is simply acknowledging Him.  Acknowledge that He knows far more than I could ever know.  Acknowledge that He sees the big picture when I can barely even see the pieces.  Acknowledge that He is my heavenly Father and wants only good for me, the same way my earthly father does.  And acknowledge that in all things, His will is better than mine.

So that’s what I did.  From that point forward, every time I prayed about those job opportunities, I acknowledged that God knew best and I surrendered what I thought I wanted to whatever He wanted in this situation.  After about a month of praying, all 3 job opportunities had passed, which brought relief on one hand, but still left us with the super tight budget.  Then this very week (as in two days ago), one of those job opportunities reappeared.  One of the companies I had spoken to previously now had a part time position, only two days a week, just for me and were willing to pay me exactly what I had made as an attorney.  Ummm, WHAT?!?!?

And you know what I learned through all that?  Our God, is a God of “None of the Above.”  Abraham was faced with a choice of sacrificing his own son or disobeying the Lord.  But when he surrendered his will to God’s, God provided a ram in the bushes to be sacrificed instead.  I faced a choice between a super tight budget or never seeing my kids.  But when I surrendered my plans to God, God provided the perfect employment opportunity instead.   When we see only choice (A) or (B), God can come in and offer: “(C) None of the above”.  God can make something from nothing, and He is always working even when we are unaware.  When we can’t see a good answer, God can.  When we see no way out, God is making a way out.  If we are willing to trust Him, willing to acknowledge Him, and willing to surrender our will to His, then He most definitely WILL make our paths straight.