And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. II Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

You’ve probably heard the story that’s attributed to Michelangelo upon the completion of his masterpiece David. According to some accounts, the sculptor was asked how he created such a stunning work from a flawed piece of marble. His purported response, “It is easy. You just chip away the stone that doesn’t look like David.” A quaint tale but probably just an urban myth.
In our lives as disciples, we very well recognize the process that can be experienced any given day as God chips away at the matter that forms us and transforms us, “slowly by slowly” into that person he intended us to be from Creation. He’s making us into what Eugene Peterson calls “our true self” while Oswald Chambers says God is changing our individuality into personality.
Paul, especially, gets in on the discussion when he writes about dying to self and the flesh that probably gives us more trouble than any evil thing that can be flung our way. Remember the old saying that a corpse doesn’t respond to good or ill? That’s not exactly what God is doing with us, but as we become our true self, Jesus increases and we decrease. We are becoming.
God gives us that tricky power of will so that we can either choose to cooperate with his process or resist and find it’s not comfortable “kicking against the pricks.” God is constantly working in us “to will and do of his good pleasure,” and as he works in us, those parts of us that are not our true self are chipped away. Yes, it can sometimes be painful, but the result is pure beauty.
In “Let Go” Fenelon reminds us that we shouldn’t be surprised at what God reveals in us—sensitivity, impatience, haughtiness, self-will. That’s just our “natural disposition, and without God’s grace, [we] will never be anything different.”
So what are we to do? Rest. We simply rest and cooperate with the chipping that God is doing. He won’t remove anything but those extraneous things that have leeched onto us as we’ve bumbled along in our independent search for piety. God doesn’t need our help to make us saints; he just wants our cooperation, and he asks us to trust him and be still while he’s working.


Father, we love seeing your handiwork in others but don’t always appreciate your methods as you work in us. Thank you for patiently bearing our protests. Please keep up the good work. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.



When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him. Isaiah 59:19 (KJV)


I’ve just returned from a Borderland Conference where we were invited to report on our ministries in Border countries and opportunities for collaboration. While we have churches providing humanitarian aid to refugees along with worship services, our primary focus is their countries of origin—education and economic development as spiritual outreach. Our experience has been that people prefer to stay in their own culture and in their homeland if they can have their needs met.
In some places violence and poverty have created an environment that threatens the lives and well-being of many people. Such was the case in a city in one of the countries where we work in Central America. Domestic abuse, witchcraft, cults, and alcoholism led to poverty and violence that seemed endless. In fact, crime was so bad in that small city that it was necessary to have four jails just to house the criminals. Finally, the church people got desperate. They determined to do something extremely radical. They prayed.
Three to four times a week, church members got together to pray. Some even began the practice of fasting. They prayed and fasted, and they didn’t stop. Eventually, disruptive family members began coming to faith in Jesus, and violence declined. The crime rate dropped so dramatically that the authorities closed the jails.
As people began practicing their faith, their lives, their families, and their community were transformed. People began working again, and the economy grew. Their town is now one of the cleanest and most prosperous in the country. When asked if they’d like to join the “caravan” headed for the United States, people responded that there was no need to leave.
So one might think that the church has diminished their fasting and prayers, but instead, they say they need to be vigilant so that their story can be shared as encouragement that God can do what no one else can. They continue to meet together on Saturdays for prayer vigils, and others continue to fast.


The Bible challenges us with stories of God’s people who have encountered powerful enemies such as Sennacherib’s attack on Jerusalem during Hezekiah’s reign (II Kings 19) and the Moabites’ and Ammonites’ attack on Jehoshaphat (II Chronicles 20). And who can forget God’s deliverance of David from Saul and his many other enemies? In each of these biblical stories, the people in desperation turned in prayer to God, asking for his intervention and his wisdom. And God answered.
I am sorry to say that as I have shared the story of the folks in the transformed city of Central America, I have been greeted with polite smiles and, for the most part, silence. Is prayer too radical for us today? And as I heard someone say when prayer was mentioned, “Oh, my, has it come to that?” I think it’s time to get radical.


Father, you tell us that we have not for we ask not. We’d rather work through our situations on our own—until we can’t. Stir us until we again turn to you expectantly with our most serious of needs. It’s time NOW. We need to pray. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.



…but as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good. Genesis 50:20


I was having lunch with a friend recently, and she said, “I’ve asked God to intervene in my child’s life no matter what it takes.” Pretty radical. She meant it. I’ve walked for decades with this friend as she continues to pray that her child’s hurtful lifestyle will be transformed by God’s unconditional love. And she is trusting him.


And then I read on a Facebook entry another friend who thanks God for using the legal system to bring his grandchild to a personal relationship with his loving Father (and with his own family). From the posted photo I saw a set of beaming grandparents with their beaming grandchild who now has peace (Dare I say “freedom”?) and ministry in prison based on redemptive grace. Where better to touch castaways? Pretty radical.


Think about that rascal Jacob whose life was colored by deception. Although God changed him to Israel, he still experienced the fruit of lies through his children. As they grew older, perhaps he prayed, “Lord, my favorite son, born of my favorite wife is filled with potential, but pride makes him intolerable. And then I have other sons who are violent, while none of my children get along. Do what you need to do, but please change them.”


We know the rest of the story, how God used circumstances to bring Joseph to Egypt, to humble him, to test and make new creations of his brothers, and to save the whole family. No one human person could have done what God did nor could they even have imagined the salvation of a whole nation. God could, and he did.


I could go on about the way I’ve seen God use circumstances to accomplish miracles in lives when radical trust has been at work. Think of Monica whose son Augustine was such a rebel. She anguished when he went to Rome—but that’s where he found God. You know the rest of that story.


We trust; God works. Let’s give it a go.

Father, sometimes we shrink back from allowing you to be Lord of a situation. We want to spare and protect those we love from the very circumstance that might be the instrument for the makeover they need. Help us to let go and radically trust you to be God. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.  Philippians 1:16


If you’ve not read The Velveteen Rabbit, drop everything and go get a copy. It really is an allegory of life and love and authenticity. The little toy bunny in the story is told by the Skin Horse that he can become real through love. The poor bunny is outmatched by fancier and more complicated toys, and the possibility of realness seems remote. But suffering and near tragedy brings out something in him that was never there before.

How like us in our pursuit of spiritual growth. Our objective is clear: become the person God intended from the dawn of creation. And then we begin the process. We think study will move us forward. We fill our lives with books. We believe emulating Jesus’ good works will win his approval. We volunteer for every good deed on the bulletin board. We try to produce good fruit so that God will be honored and people will be blessed. All these things and more we do on our own.

And all the while, becoming is not our doing. It’s all of God. Yes, we can cooperate, but he’s the one who does the work. Like the clay under the potter’s hand, our job is to surrender and to hold still as he pounds and shapes and then reshapes and then spins us wildly on the wheel as his hands hold us lovingly, forming us as he will. And when he finishes, we are the work of his hands and the image of his making.

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil 2:13). Resting in God’s hands doesn’t guarantee comfort; it doesn’t promise ease; but it does ensure peace and warrants transformation. And all the while, God is bringing us into truth. We are becoming real as he cuts off the superficial and removes the phony props and takes away everything that is not of him.

Do you remember the story that was attributed to have been Michaelangelo’s explanation for his brilliant sculpture of David? It is said that he was questioned as to how he was able to so radically create David from the massive piece of marble that had been rejected by other sculptors. The simple response? I cut out everything that was not David. Perhaps that’s an apocryphal statement, but it is what God seems to be doing with us. He looks at the self we have surrendered to him, and he begins to chip and cut and file away according to his design. He knows what he intends us to be, and as we lie still, he perfects his good work in us.

Like that little fictional rabbit, we finally become real.
Father, we long to have your love shape and mold and make us. Take us and let your will be done. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.  Romans 12:2



National Geographic (September, 2017) has an excellent article about addiction that includes many behavioral addictions which are just recently being seen as destructive, life-altering dependencies.  Research indicates the changes that occur in the brain, chemistry, and synapses that actually “remold neural circuits to assign supreme value to [the substance or behavior], at the expense of other interests such as health, work, family, or life itself.”  Eventually, the addict has no control of his/her behavior because his brain material and functions have essentially been reshaped.

This makes me think of Paul, in chapter 7 of Romans, who talks about not doing what he wants to do but behaving in a contrary fashion.  Paul isn’t talking about addiction here but rather the sin principle that’s part of each of us.  Later, in Romans 12 he zeroes in on the problem that we all struggle with—being conformed to the world (complying with the secular world’s standards).  We become so entangled with cultural mores and contemporary lifestyles that we excuse the sin that’s taken root in us.

Paul’s remedy sounds just like the treatments that are being offered to addicts in new medical trials.  Researchers are talking about and experimenting with “repairing the brain’s wiring”—what Paul states as “transformation of the mind.”  In both instances, there must be voluntary participation.  With the medical trials, the patient must want a change.  God’s remedy infers that each of us must cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit by “renewing” our minds, exchanging those deadly, sinful thoughts and behaviors for godly, wholesome patterns.  This sounds to me like the “rewiring” with which today’s medical community is experimenting.

Science knows that continued behaviors set the synapses in pathways that are difficult to disrupt, but the Creator who initially put our bodies in motion also provided healing for us to be transformed.  In fact, he’s given us everything we need for life and godliness (II Peter 1:3)—the provision is already there.  He’s given us the Holy Spirit, his Word, the community of believers that we call the Church, and he’s given us science and the medical profession.

We have to make the choice for transformation, and it’s one that should be made every single day so that we’re free from any bondage that diminishes us as Children of God.  Whether the addiction is something frowned on by society or is seemingly as innocent as negativity or disruptive thought patterns, if it controls us, we need to be set free.  God has the answer; we can be changed.


Father, it’s easy for us to see the sins in the lives of others without seeing the things that trip us up in our own lives and relationships.  Give us the courage to identify anything in ourselves that entangles us and keeps us from freedom in you.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  Ephesians 6:11



This morning in chapel the Bishop gave a whole new twist to the analogy of God’s armor.  Remember, there’s the helmet of salvation, the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, and the sword of the Spirit, God’s Word.

The helmet of salvation guards our thoughts and protects the mind so that it processes and applies God’s truth.  We typically wear belts around the middle parts of our bodies for aesthetic and practical reasons.  Truth is both beautiful and holds all our theology together.  A breastplate, righteousness, protects our hearts from all the things that can spoil and destroy the life of Christ within.  We walk in peace as God’s children, and God’s Word, the sword, is two-edged—both protecting and reprimanding us.

When we are children, we love to play dress-up.  My granddaughters have all enjoyed taking various pieces of clothing from my closet and dressers to play grown-up.  They imitate me and their mothers.  Play is a child’s work to help in developing character traits and personality.  When our children and grandchildren wear our clothing, they are processing through play what they will become.

So here we get to the armor.  The whole object of our Christian journey is to glorify God and to become like Jesus.  How better to do that than to dress like him?  Jesus IS our salvation, our truth, our righteousness, our peace and has taught us to use that sword in growing into his likeness.  The more we wear the armor, the more it becomes like a second skin, and the more we become like Jesus.

The armor of the Lord not only helps us to stand against the wicked intentions of the devil, but it assists us in being transformed more and more into the image of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.  If you’re not wearing it, stop everything, and go put it on right now.



Father, show us the joy that awaits us as we are changed into the likeness of your Son, Jesus Christ.  AMEN.



And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  II Corinthians 3:18  (NIV)



Have you ever wished you could change a certain attitude or drop an unattractive trait?  The Good News is that it’s possible.  Paul tells us how it can happen in a couple of his letters.  First, by exposing our true selves and concentrating on Jesus (II Cor. 3:18), his attributes, his character, and his love, we become more and more like him.  Then, we trust his working in us will be for good.  Remember, he has already begun a good work in us and will continue it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6), and he is working in us just now giving us the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Phil. 2:13 NLT).

Finally, if we really want to grow and to change, we must listen to the Holy Spirit who speaks to each one of us.  It is his job to convict us regarding sin and righteousness (John 16:8).  Essentially, prior to our pursuing an attitude displeasing to God or speaking unkind words or acting in a manner unbecoming his child, the Holy Spirit quietly warns us.  In this millisecond we have a choice:  Do we follow our selfish instincts or do we respond to God?

God always does his part in changing us from glory to glory, but we have to do ours.  God has given us free will to follow him or to indulge our flesh.  The instant his Spirit softly alerts us, we can respond in obedience and find ourselves more like our Lord or we can reject him and become more entrenched in the behaviors and attitudes that even we despise.

So we return to that life regimen we call discipline. To cooperate with God’s work in transforming us, we listen when his Spirit speaks, and we discipline ourselves to do his will.  In that instant of decision, he empowers us, and as we continue this right behavior, it becomes a habit.  At last, with practice, we are no longer enslaved by that sinful attitude or behavior.  It’s really quite simple.

God’s part:  conviction and empowerment; our part: disciplined obedience.  Result:  transformation.



Father, how long have we tried to change ourselves when we know that only you can make us like Jesus?  Give us ears to hear your Spirit and determination to do your will.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”  James 4:17


Someone I know suffers from severe depression and has for years.  She is a faithful believer and spends time in the morning reading and studying the Bible.  In fact, she wouldn’t think of skipping a day without devotions.  When I mentioned that it might be helpful to look each day to see what God was actually telling her to do—something actionable—in the Word, it was as if lightning had struck.  This was a whole new concept.

How much time do we spend reading and studying the Bible with absolutely no intention or thought of doing what God says in order to be transformed?  We are enjoying the status quo rather than being changed day by day into his image.  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine (principles of belief), for reproof (reprimand), for correction (making right), for instruction in righteousness (right standing with God):  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.  (II Timothy 3:16-17)

The Word of God gives direction (Psa. 119:105); obeying the Word brings blessing (Luke 11:28); doing the Word protects us in the storm (Luke 7:24); the Word provides understanding (Psa. 119:130); the Word is truth (John 17:17); the Word heals (Psa. 107:20); whoever keeps his Word loves him (John 14:21); keeping his Word brings success (Josh. 1:8).  AND living in the Word is the surest way to grow spiritually and to maintain a joyous relationship with him.

Why should we sell ourselves short when delight in him is so easily accessed?  Pick up the Bible; ask him to speak through his Word; talk to him; and live in him.  He’s made the way so plain that even the most stupid can’t miss it (Isa. 35:8 TLB).


Father, in you is everything we will ever need for life and righteousness.  Strengthen our faith to trust you in all things, and help us to discipline ourselves so that we may be transformed into your likeness.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.  Psalm 42:5



My husband had been in the hospital for days recovering from heart surgery.  The longer we had dealt with his illness, surgery, and recovery, the heavier I’d felt.  Most waking hours I’d been with him, and I stayed each night until bedtime.  Rounding the corner in the now very familiar hospital corridor, Psalm 42:5 began to ring in my mind:  Why are you cast down?  Why are you disquieted?  Hope in God…

Over and over I seem to need this reminder:  Our hope is in God, not people, not resources.  Just God.  On the other hand, there’s nothing sub-Christian about being down, but it’s terribly debilitating to stay down.  Phillips’ version of II Corinthians 4:8-9 says, “We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down, but we are never knocked out!”

What can we do when we’re knocked down?  It’s for sure we won’t get up if we wallow in self-pity.  In fact, I can’t think of anything good that comes of navel gazing.  The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that we all experience hardships, but we are to keep our eyes on Jesus so that we don’t get weary and lose heart.  Furthermore, we are to dust ourselves off, strengthen our weak knees, and get up so that those following us aren’t misled but healed.

There can be actual benefits derived by being cast down:  We are humbled to face our own vulnerability and offenses; we recognize our need for the Savior; we are disillusioned by our impotence while acknowledging his strength; and we cry out for God.  While we’re down, if we recognize the folly of undue attention to ourselves and, instead, look to Jesus, the experience can be another step toward transformation.  As we focus on his glory, we are changed into his image (II Corinthians 3:18) rather than the clay-footed one we now inhabit.

So, it’s heads up and eyes on Jesus, no matter what.  The Author and Finisher of our faith will always be there.


Father, even when I’m down, don’t lift up me until I’ve learned what you’re trying to teach me.  Thank you that being knocked down doesn’t mean that we’re knocked out.  We’re just temporarily disengaged.  Help us to keep our focus on you, and make us more like Jesus, whatever it takes.  AMEN.


But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.  I Corinthians 15:20  (KJV)



As this Holy Week ends on the high note of Resurrection, I have listed ten reasons I give thanks for everything Jesus’ resurrection means to me:


  1. It lends credibility to everything Jesus said and taught.
  2. It proves he is the living Son of God.
  3. It informs his suffering and death on the cross for our salvation, healing, and freedom.
  4. It is the foundation of our faith.
  5. It gives me hope that I, too, will some day be resurrected to eternal life in him.
  6. It ensures our righteousness in him and right-standing before God.
  7. It demonstrates our future transformed body.
  8. The Spirit of God that raised Jesus from the dead now lives in me.
  9. The last enemy, death, no longer has power over us.
  10. I am now empowered by God’s Spirit.



Father, Lent and the reminder of our human frailty is past.  We now can walk in resurrection life through Jesus Christ and his sacrificial death on the cross and his resurrection by your mighty power.  Help us to apply all that means to every day of our lives.  In his name.  AMEN.