The Miracle of New Life

Have you ever witnessed a birth?  It is miraculous to say the least.

Have you ever actually participated in a birthing?  That takes the experience to a whole new level.  And to think that some people get to participate in the miracle of new life on a regular basis – what a privilege!

I was present at the birth of both of our sons, which was life altering to say the least.  I’ve never been the same.  I’m sure you share my sentiments about your experience with the birth of your children.

Recently I had the privilege of participating a different kind of birth – the new birth of a new friend of mine.  His story is miraculous…

My friend moved to Kelowna from a different city.  He’s a successful business owner; married with a young family.  Their life in another province was enviable in many, many ways.  However, he felt compelled to make a move and lead his family to Kelowna.

We connected through a business associate of mine.  My associate suggested this out of town entrepreneur needed to meet me.  We met and had a great connection.  We began a business relationship where I was engaged to provide some executive coaching.

In all of my business endeavors I ask the Lord to give me the Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation so that I might know Jesus more, and know His heart for the people with whom I will be working.  I ask the Lord to help me to provide wisdom to my clients and hear anything the Lord may want to say to them.

We began our session with digging into my friend’s definition of success.  He began to tell me his story.  It became very evident to me that the Lord had been speaking to this man, but he was totally unaware that it was actually God speaking to him.  So, I took a risk.  I said to my client,

“I’m going to say something to you that could take our relationship to the next level, or end it right here.”

I then began to point out that what was compelling him to move, and what he was hearing, was actually God speaking to him.  I suggested that the Lord was leading him to Kelowna to invite him into new life with Him.  As I shared this perspective, tears began to well up in his eyes and stream down his cheeks.

I knew the Holy Spirit was up to something.

He shared more of his story and I suggested, “I believe Jesus is inviting you to give Him your life so He can give you His life.”

My new friend simply responded with, “How do I do that?”

We talked further about the invitation Jesus is giving him to leave the family of darkness led by the father of lies, and be born again into the family of God as a beloved son of our Heavenly Father – the Father of Lights.

He said he wanted to do that.

So, we prayed together and he exchanged his life for Jesus’ new life in him.  Wow!  When we finished he said it felt like a massive weight had been lifted off his shoulders.  He said he felt like he was breathing in life with every new breath he was taking.

What a miracle!  What a privilege to participate in his new birth!  And we now continue our journey into this new life together…

I learned through this amazing encounter that we need to have our hearts open to see with different eyes what the Lord may be up to.  Then by the leading of the Spirit to simply point out what we’re seeing.  And then be prepared to share the hope we’ve discovered in Jesus.

We don’t know where we are in that person’s journey: their first encounter with a Jesus follower, someone sowing seeds of truth along their journey, or someone who gets the privilege of introducing them to Jesus.  We must simply be willing to partner with Jesus and give away what He has given us to give.

When we do, we will sometime, somewhere, get to experience the miracle of new life – and it is awesome!

Ephesians 1:17

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”

1 Peter 3:15

“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

“As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’  I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

1 Timothy 4:1-2  (The Message)

“I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.”

Standing Firm in Him

Do you have patio umbrellas?

We have 3 of them.  They are all 9’ in diameter.

One is in our patio dining table and the other 2 are stand-alone umbrellas plugged into 2 different bases to give them support.  One sits behind and over top of 2 Muskoka chairs where Anne and I often sit.  The other one is an “extra” that we set up behind our sectional if the sun is shining directly onto it.

All three block out the sun and the rain.  They are all attractive and add to the aesthetic of the patio.  They all have the same cranking mechanism to open up and close the umbrella.  Each one of them can tilt as well.

However, there is a key difference in one of them…

We generally leave the umbrellas up regardless of the weather, but whenever the wind starts to blow we crank them all down to reduce wind resistance to ensure they don’t blow away.

I noticed something today when the wind began to blow.  Two of the umbrellas held fast – no chance of them falling down or blowing away.  One of them fell down immediately.  As I watched it fall over I thought,

“I don’t want to be that kind of man – toppling over at the first sign of opposition.”

So why do the 2 umbrellas hold fast and the 1 umbrella falls over when the wind blows?  The secret to their strength lies in their base.  All three umbrellas are equal except for the base they stand upon.

The umbrella in the dining table has 2 points of support, at the ground level and at the table height.  The umbrella covering the Muskoka chairs has a very heavy cast iron 4 square foot base with a locking nut to hold the umbrella firm.

The weakest umbrella, the one that easily falls down, is in a light weight round metal base.  It has a locking nut as well, but the round base is too light and unstable because of its shape.  That’s the reason this umbrella cannot hold fast in the face of opposition.

What about you?  What kind of base are you standing upon?  Are you like the umbrellas holding fast to a firm foundation that can withstand strong winds?  Or, are you like the one umbrella standing upon a weak foundation that topples over when the wind comes?

What enables us to stand firm when we face opposition?  What is the foundation we need to be standing upon?

God/Jesus.

What does that mean?  How do we stand in Jesus?

King David spoke often about the Lord being his rock, his fortress, his refuge, his stronghold.
David would run to the Lord for His help.  David would stand in the Truth of who God is and what God had promised.  David also spoke about how the Lord would lift him out of a pit and put him on a rock.  The rock of Truth.

David had to choose to believe God, and that He is who He said He is.  He had to put his faith in God.

Jesus came saying that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He also said that if we want to build our lives on a firm foundation we need to obey His words.  Not just believe His words, but put them into practice.  We must believe that He is who He said He is, and then obey what He has asked us to do.

Belief in, and obedience to God is our rock.

Paul outlines how we can stand firm in the face of spiritual opposition: Truth, Faith, the Word of God, the righteousness and salvation of Christ, and the Gospel of the Kingdom.  This is a life that is built on belief in and obedience to Jesus and His Word.

The only firm foundation we can stand on is Jesus, believing and obeying the Truth.

If you find yourself “toppling over” in the face of opposition, take a look at where you’re standing on your own and not in Christ.  Where are you not believing in and obeying Him?

Let’s be wise “umbrellas” standing firm in Him.

Matthew 7:24, 25

 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

Psalm 40:2

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

Ephesians 6:14-17

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Psalm 18:2

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Jesus In You and Through You

As we sat in the sunshine looking out at the beautiful calm waters of Okanagan Lake my friend looked at me and said,

“I don’t think the enemy cares as much about Christ in us as he does about Christ coming out of us.”

That is brilliant.

Scripture clearly tells us that Christ is in us.  The Spirit of the Living God is alive in us.  In fact, it is Christ in us that is our hope of glory.  The Holy Spirit is like a river of living water inside us.  The miracle of our life in Christ is that we are in Him and He is in us by His spirit.

According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the pinnacle of our human existence in Self-Actualization.  That philosophy is built on the tenants of Humanistic Psychology.  As followers of Christ our goal is not self-actualization, but Jesus-actualization – more of Him and less of me.  We want to see more of the nature and character of Christ in our lives.

Have you been uniquely created, and crafted in the image of God?  Yes.  Do you have unique gifts, talents and abilities?  Yes.  Do you have unique experiences and perspectives that have shaped who you are?  Yes.  And, it is through the uniqueness of who you are that Jesus wants to demonstrate who He is.

Do we have a sin nature we need to take to the cross?  Yes.  Do we have sinful habits and desires we need to surrender to Jesus?  Yes.  Do we need to continue to fight for freedom from the lies of the enemy, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life?  Yes.

It is Christ in us by the power of His Spirit that cleanses us, and transformers us to be like Christ.  Our minds and hearts are renewed in Christ so we are more like Him.

And that is where the real power lies.

We must not stay in a complacent state of ignorant contentment to simply have Christ in us, but must endeavor to have Christ come out of us by way of a transformed life.  How do we live differently because Christ is in us?  How is our life in Christ put into action?

How does Jesus come out of us?

Scripture tells us in Philippians 2:12-13

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

This is basically saying that Christ is in you through your salvation, and now you need to work out your salvation so Christ will be demonstrated through you – and God makes you both willing and able to do that.  Jesus wants to work through you to impact the people around you.

Jesus is in us so He can flow out of us like living water to the quench the thirsty souls of those in our spheres of influence and authority.

Jesus is in you so He can work through you.

Don’t be content with simply having Christ in you.  Don’t be content with simply being saved.  Now we need to work out our salvation so Christ works through us for the benefit of others.  We need to grow in our understanding of how Jesus wants to love others through us.

You may be the only Jesus someone every meets.

How will you be His hands, His feet, His voice, His arms, His heart for someone today?

Our prayer needs to be, “Lord Your Kingdom come and Your will be done in me and through me today.  Jesus, by the power of your Spirit would you work in me and through me today.”

As James said, “…faith without deeds is useless.”  Jesus is in you so He can work through you.  Let’s make sure Jesus comes out of us in the form of love and good deeds toward others.

Jesus in you and Jesus through you.  Let Him out.

Romans 12:2

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

John 7:38

“’Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

Galatians 1:27

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

A Life of Repentance

I had the pleasure and privilege of golfing Pebble Beach a while ago – one of the greatest golf courses in the world.  Spectacular scenery, challenging holes: an incredible experience.  And, you know what?  I shot par.  Yup, I shot par at Pebble Beach.

Pretty amazing eh?

Now, before you go thinking that I am an amazing golfer I need to tell you more of the story.  I didn’t play Pebble Beach at Pebble Beach.  I played Pebble Beach at a hotel in Seattle – on their golf simulator.  I chose to play Pebble Beach out of more than 50 golf courses from around the world.

If you haven’t tried out one of these simulators, they are quite extraordinary.  You hit off of artificial grass towards a huge video screen that projects computer graphics of the course accurately simulated through the use of GPS.  The computer is able to calculate the distance and direction of your shot as you watch the trajectory of your ball on the screen.

Your ball lands, you check the hole coordinates on the screen, pick a club and hit again.  I found putting the real tricky part, but you know what they say, “Drive for show, putt for dough.”

There was one other part of the computer simulation that was particularly helpful for me to shoot par.  It’s called the Mulligan button.  After every shot I had the choice of keeping my shot, or pressing the Mulligan button on the computer screen and shooting another shot.  I could choose to not have that stroke counted against me in my game.

I loved that button.  I must have pressed that button over 100 times.  I would hit a shot that I wasn’t pleased with, press Mulligan, adjust my grip, my stance, my angle, and then hit again.  I did this over and over again until my shots started to get truer and farther and I needed the Mulligan button less.

As I was doing this I began to think that this is like repentance.

In life we do something that isn’t good – our shot goes astray.  So, we ask the Lord to forgive us and to help us to change – to hit truer next time.  Then we take some sort of action to ensure that next time we “hit that shot” we get a better outcome.

You see, we are called to a life of repentance.  Repentance is a daily choice – a daily gift from the Lord to start again.  It’s an ongoing gift of mercy and grace from the Lord to lay aside the sin that besets us and keep moving forward in the game of life.

Sadly, many people have a negative perception of the word “repent”.  It can feel like someone is pointing a finger of condemnation at us, pointing out all our wrongs, all our sin, all our shortcoming, all our shame, all the things about ourselves that we don’t like and we’re not proud of.

Jesus doesn’t condemn us though.  Scripture tells us that He didn’t come to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.  Repentance is our opportunity to simply say, “Yes, I want a new start.  I want a divine do-over, a spiritual start-again, a miraculous mulligan.”

And this is not a one-time offer.  We are invited to live a life of repentance.  We can choose to live with an ongoing attitude to lay aside the sin that trips us up and press on toward God’s heart for us.

We are not perfect, and are not going to be this side of heaven.  So don’t let your pride trip you up and prohibit you from feely admitting that you blew it.  Admit your ‘sin’, repent and embrace the grace that God has for you.

Your sin does not disqualify you, only your pride will, because that is what stops you from repenting and receiving God’s forgiveness and grace.  Let’s choose humility, freely admit and confess our sin so we can receive God’s gift of life and grace.

Let’s choose to live a life of repentance and receive all the life and grace God has for us.

Hebrews 12:1

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

1 Peter 5:5b-6

“’God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.’  Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that He may lift you up in due time.”

John 3:17

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world though Him.”