The First Step

“First step towards redemption is repentance.” I tweeted this quote the other day. In my mind, I could see an entire process of repentance and redemption taking place in my life, but on Twitter I only have 140 characters or less to explain a Biblical Truth: Repentance leads to Redemption. The first and most important example of this truth is salvation. “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3.19 NASB). REPENT. RETURN. REFRESH. When we realize that we are sinners and ask Jesus into our hearts, He’s able to redeem our entire lives supernaturally and reconcile us back to God. If Jesus can redeem us from hell, He can certainly redeem us from the symptoms of hell—defeat, depression, poverty, bitterness, heartache, pain, etc. We can now host “the presence of the Lord” on earth because we have righteousness through Jesus Christ, and we enjoy a “refreshing” relationship with the Holy Spirit. The process of redemption starts when God replaces our eternity separated from Him (hell) with eternity reconciled to Him (heaven). “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1.23 NIV). But that’s only the first step. The process of repent, return and refresh can be seen like a wellspring in our hearts. The Seed of Salvation springs to life when we receive salvation. It has supernaturally saved us, but now God wants to work that salvation into all the natural parts of our...

Saint Patrick: A Blessing

  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 15.20 NIV). Saint Patrick was not Irish, but he is now known as the patron saint of Ireland. How did this English young man make such an influence in Ireland during the fourth century AD? God was able to use what was meant for harm to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Saint Patrick’s real name is believed to have been Maewyn Succat, and he was kidnapped at the age of 6 and sold into slavery in Ireland for about 6 years. He finally made his way back home and dedicated his life to God. He spent the next 12 years studying under his mentor, St. Germain, the bishop of Auxerre. When he became a bishop himself, he had a dream that the people of Ireland were calling out to him. He received the Pope’s blessing to return to the very people who enslaved him, and he began a massive spiritual awakening in the hearts of the pagan people. Not only did he win many souls to Christ (including both the rich and the poor), he established monasteries, schools and churches all over Ireland. Because of Saint Patrick’s time as a slave in Ireland, he knew the language and culture and could preach to the people in a way that made sense to them. He had so much zeal for the Lord that even after being arrested many times by the Celtic Druids, he still continued his quest to win the hearts of the Irish...

Reading Music

    My son has been playing piano since he was four years old. Now at age 12, he is very good at playing solo music. He has an amazing gift of listening to music and finding the keys by hearing. Whenever he plays a song, he memorizes the music first. This can be a good thing because he can play music without having the notes in front of him. But it can be a bad thing because he reads music slowly since he leans so heavily on his hearing. He can’t just sit down with a piece of music and play each note. He has to study each note first, memorize their order and then play the song. This happens a lot with piano players since much of their study is done alone. In order for my son to get better at reading music, he tried out for our local youth symphony. He made the string ensemble, but the maestro understood that although my son plays very well, his music reading is slow. My son will have to work on reading each note as he plays them and develop that skill. At the first rehearsal, my son felt lost. Not only had he never played with other instruments before, he also fell behind in playing the music. He couldn’t read the notes nearly as quickly as the other students playing violin and cello who had learned to play their instruments among the orchestra. My son who excels in solo playing appeared disoriented and slow. Although he has been playing piano for 7 years, his talent did not show...

The 10-Day Challenge

  “Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’  So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days” (Daniel 1.11-14 NIV). Many times God wants to make a change in our lives. We can sense the change, but we don’t have the full vision of what God wants to accomplish. Since we can’t see the end result, it is difficult to make the strenuous steps towards change. Change is hard—no matter how good it is for us. But there is a way to get a glimpse of the power behind this change. We can follow Daniel’s lead and take the 10-day challenge. Daniel replaced royal food with vegetables, and examined to see whether this change had benefits or not. At the end of his 10 days, Daniel was 10 times better than all the rest of his peers! The 10-day challenge is an easy gauge that will help us better see what God is trying to do in our lives. And once we commit to doing our change for 10 days and see the amazing results, the total transfer of habits will be easier to accomplish because we can finally grasp God’s bigger plan. We can do as Daniel did and test what the Holy Spirit is trying to accomplish in us, trusting that God always has our good...

Pressure Holes

There is a lot of construction taking place near my home. When I leave our subdivision, whether I go right or left, there are great machines digging, drilling and moving materials around. One day as I was driving into town, I saw a large contraption drilling holes into a massive, misshapen block of cement. The cement slab was part of the old road, and the machine was breaking it down for removal. I found it interesting that the machine drilled holes into the cement first before applying pressure. Once there were several holes about one foot apart from each other, the machine’s clamps bore down on the cement, crumbling it into chunks. Both the holes and the pressure were necessary to tear down the strong block of cement. Satan knows this is true for God’s children too. The Bible guarantees that we will have great pressures and troubles in this life (John 16.33). The holidays are definitely proof of this truth. Christmas can bring amazing joy, but it also may add great amounts of financial, emotional, relational and mental pressures that are intensified with the busyness of the season. This is the time that we need to make sure that we are filling our weak areas with God’s grace. Are we staying in God’s Word? Are we communicating with our Heavenly Father? Are we renewing our minds in Christ daily? Are we finding rest in the Holy Spirit’s strength? Satan wants nothing more than to crumble us to bits, stealing our joy and robbing us of special moments. He wants to watch us fall and make the lives of...

Enhanced Soup

  Every morning, I read a devotional with my kids during breakfast. We have a large collection of devotional books in a drawer of the kitchen curio cabinet, including some of my own. One morning we read a devotional that I had written years ago about Elisha and the poisoned pot of soup (2 Kings 4:38-41.) One of the prophets had picked poisonous gourds, cut them up and mixed them into the soup. When Elisha discovered the soup was poisoned, he threw a handful of flour into the pot, and the toxic stew became a pleasing meal for the prophets. After we read the story, I compared Jesus to being the Bread of Life. Jesus is like the flour being mixed into our lives—neutralizing the poison of sin, so we can be pleasing to God. “God is pleased with us because He sees His Son, Jesus, in us,” I explained. “Jesus took all of our sins on the cross, and now we are perfect before a Holy God.” My analytical 12-year old son thought for a moment. “If God sees Jesus in me, is there room for God to see me too?” he asked. I’ve thought of this question many times. If God is pleased with us because He sees His Son in us, how does our unique personality fit into the mix? I’ve struggled to explain that Jesus infuses our own personality, soul and design with His presence, making us perfect and whole. But it has always been a difficult truth to explain without a concrete image to go with it.  Suddenly, I saw the image of the soup...

Spiritual Sprinkler System

A section of our sprinkler system stopped working, so a patch of our lawn did not get watered all summer long. We live in South Texas, and the southern heat dried up that patch of grass, leaving it sickly yellow and dead. One day my daughter went up to the dead grass and started tugging chunks of it out of the ground. “Look, Mommy,” she said. “The yellow grass is easy to pull out of the ground.” I was intrigued. I went to the dead grass, grabbed a handful, and sure enough the entire clump came out easily. I reached for a section of thick, green grass next to the dead patch and yanked on it. The healthy blades of grass stayed strong and the roots held on tight. The lush grass wouldn’t even budge. As I looked at the green and yellow grass, I uncovered one of Satan’s schemes. He knows we aren’t easily moved when our “sprinkler system” from heaven is running fine, and God’s Word and Voice are able to water us daily. Instead of tempting us right away, Satan will try to sabotage our flow from the Lord by distracting us from drinking from His Living Water. “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” – John 4.14 (NLT) After a few months of a spiritual drought, we become weakened prey for Satan to destroy. Our blades have shriveled and our roots are dead, so any temptation Satan throws our way will knock us down and pull us...

New Crop

I live next to acres of farmland. Every harvesting season, I’m so excited to watch the giant harvester machines gather all the grain. The tiny seeds that were planted that spring have now become large crops of produce, and the farmers set out to reap the results of their hard work. I wonder how good it must feel to finally fill the storehouses with the “fruits” of the farmers’ labor. After the difficult task of harvesting is finished and the crop is safely dispersed, the fields look rather pathetic. The remaining chopped and twisted stalks look like rows of defeated soldiers coming in from a devastating battle. The acres of farmland make for a tattered and disheveled landscape, unfolding against the beautiful, sunlit horizon. It’s almost depressing to behold, and I have to remind myself that there will be new life in the death of that year’s crop. Finally, the tractors come in and till the earth. The yellowed and ragged stalks are mixed in with the earth, and the dark brown soil appears like a clean slate along the skyline. Possibility, new beginnings, fresh start – are all words that come to mind when I see the acres of empty fields. And I know that the dilapidated stalks will become nourishment for next year’s harvest. Sometimes God allows acres of our life to be plowed over. Whatever crop we produced is taken away, and we feel like we are left with nothing but tattered dreams and shredded efforts. But God will not allow the fields of our obedience to stay desolate. He will gently till the earth of...

Rubik’s Cube Algorithm

After weeks of effort, my 12-year-old son completed the Rubik’s Cube. The fact that he even wanted to engage in this challenge blows my mind. As a child, the Rubik’s Cube was an impossibility for me. Even with my vibrant imagination, I could not conceive of a reality where I would ever figure out the Rubik’s mystery. The more I slid the color cubes around, the more I messed up the color patterns. I remember one time I figured out one side of the Rubik’s Cube and stopped there. Every time I tried to complete another color pattern, I would rearrange my finished side. I decided that I did not want to risk losing my one completed side to solve the other five. I didn’t realize that in order to achieve the color pattern for all six sides, the Rubik’s Cube would first have to go through disorder. My son explained that cracking the code is not about focusing on the color pattern, but rather on the algorithms of all the turns. An algorithm is a process or set of rules to be followed to solve a problem. Focusing on the color pattern will only lead to defeat, but focusing on the movement of each turn will lead to victory. There is a process that can be employed to complete every Rubik’s Cube. It’s not a mystery at all. In fact, if the algorithm is followed, anyone can solve the Rubik’s Cube. It may seem disorderly at first, but—color-by-color and side-by-side—the Rubik’s Cube will fall into place. The same is true for our lives. God has an algorithm for...

Coffee Trees

My family and I went on a summer vacation, and one tourist attraction on my list to visit was a coffee farm. We found a locally owned café and coffee farm located on several acres of beautifully lined coffee trees. When I asked if we could have a tour, a friendly barista quickly took off her apron and ushered us passed the buffet of chocolate covered coffee beans and through the backdoor of the shop. As we entered the wonderful landscape beyond the café, I could instantly smell the sweet aroma of the little white buds that dotted the coffee trees. The barista was surprised by the amount of flowers speckling the green clusters of unripe coffee cherries. The white flowers only bloom for a few days before the fruit appears. Coffee beans are actually not beans at all. Rather, they are the pits of the ripe, red fruit called the cherry that spring up once the flower withers. The red fruit is edible, but these cherries still had a few months left of ripening. The barista explained many details of the coffee tree, answering all of my kids’ questions and a few of my own. My mind went to the investment involved growing all of the tress, so I asked how long it took until the trees produced their first crop. The young woman answered that it could take the coffee tree up to seven years to produce its first fruit. Wow! That was a long time to wait for an investment to start paying off. But the young woman added that once the coffee tree started growing...