Take Off Your Grave Clothes


Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

John 11:44

Life can get a little tricky when you’re all tied up.

As we can see from His response when Lazarus walked out of his grave, Jesus knew this fact. You can read the entire story in John 11:1-44. Those who witnessed the miracle were told to remove his grave clothes and let Lazarus go. He would need his hands, feet, and eyesight to get on with his new life.

Now that we have celebrated the resurrection of Jesus this past weekend, perhaps we should give some thought to our own resurrected lives. Have we removed our grave clothes and walked into our new life? Or are we hopping around sightless, still caught up in worldly wrappings?

This may be where I was lacking in my first years as a Christian.

I knew Jesus but I couldn’t follow very well because I had not removed my grave clothes. They kept tripping me up and hobbled my progress. And seeing which way Jesus went was impossible with a blindfold on. Then there was the smell. I still reeked of death. I had been called out of the grave but hadn’t completely given up worldly living. My life did not display the real miracle which had occurred making me alive.

Many places in the New Testament says that if we are in Christ—accepting His gift of forgiveness for our sin—then we are made alive in Jesus. One passage found in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, says we are

“a new creation; old things have passed away, and new things have come.”

Those “old things” that are gone, they are sins that bind us up.

Romans 6 really helps us understand our new life in Christ. Romans 6:4 says, “Just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in a new way.” That way we can be free from the trappings of our old life. Just as Lazarus, our resurrection from the dead life we were leading is to bring glory to the Father. How can glory be accomplished if we continue in our old ways? We must take our grave clothes off and walk unhampered into our new lives with Jesus.

Romans 6:10-11
“For in light of the fact that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in light of the fact that He lives, He lives to God. So, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

Something to Ponder

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
John 11 ESV


When God Became Real


Now, the Word became flesh and took up residence among us.

John 1:14a

When I was a young woman, I walked away from the church. Maybe it was just the religious part of church I left behind. I just didn’t fit in. Where there should have been acceptance, I received rejection. Where I should have found encouragement, I found a bar set so high it was not only above my reach, it was far out of my sight. It was such a pity because I believed in God, yet I was left thinking Him too far away.

As you can imagine, life beyond the influence of regular input from God’s Word was precarious at best. I dabbled in risky behaviors of drugs, alcohol and sex. With the world as my guide, these things were not taboo. They were accepted—embraced even. Each step I took in the world’s direction distanced me a little farther from God. At least that’s what I thought.

A day did come when I wanted God back in my life. There seemed to be a very quiet whispering in my soul that I hadn’t heard in a while. In hindsight, I know it was actually His voice I was hearing. I had just forgotten what He sounded like.

During that time, I found myself at a women’s retreat. I don’t remember many of the speaker’s words, but something she said ignited a desire within me to know the God who became man and dwelt among us. She was of Jewish heritage, so she knew what it was like to believe in God without actually knowing Him. It was the knowing part I was intrigued with. At some point she shared that meeting Him would involve a simple turning in His direction.

I remember the moment that I changed course so clearly. It was as if I was coming out of a cloud. As I turned, Jesus came into my full view. His presence took on form in my mind’s eye. I can’t really explain it all without sounding too far-fetched, but I could picture Him. I have to admit, He looked a lot like the Sunday school room picture I saw when I was a kid—beard, robes, sash and all. Regardless of the image I saw, it was the look of acceptance on His face that touched my heart the most. There I stood, covered with the marks of worldliness in His full view, and all I could see was love in his eyes. That’s it. He loved me just as I was at the moment.

What happened next was extraordinary. It was as though He reached up and grabbed that bar that had been placed so high above my ability to achieve. He brought it down to a manageable level, took my hand and guided me across it. All I had to do was turn my eyes toward Him.

Religion gave way to relationship. Jesus moved into my life in a very tangible way bringing with Him a standard of living that elevated me. Acceptance and guidance brought a confidence that I had not experienced before. I cannot stress enough how my life is different. If you have never considered welcoming Jesus into your life perhaps you should give it some thought. There is nothing that isn’t made better by His presence.

We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth,

who came from the Father.

John 1:14b


Your Destination Will Be Peace


The navigation app on my phone seemed to have a poor sense of direction.

It commanded in a loud voice to take the next exit to reach my destination that I knew was a few more freeway ramps away. What I didn’t know was an accident blocked the road and the app’s seemly all-knowing function redirected me to save time, and most likely, some aggravation along the way.

Oh, man. Don’t ya wish life could have the same guidance system?

“In two days, continue forward for six hours, then make a sharp right turn to avoid the. . .” Yep, I think step-by-step, instructions would come in very handy.

Although we don’t have info on the moment-by-moment events in life, we do have directions that will serve us well. They are found in the writings of the Bible and when implemented, they can help us navigate through the unpredictable situations we come up against, many times saving us time and aggravation.

This portion of scripture, Jeremiah 6:16 NET, points out that very idea– “The LORD said to his people: ‘You are standing at the crossroads. So consider your path. Ask where the old, reliable paths are. Ask where the path is that leads to blessing and follow it. If you do, you will find rest for your souls.’”

Those old reliable paths are the instructions. . .

God has revealed to us through the Bible. Along with the instructions come examples of experience and the eventual outcomes where choices to follow God were involved. Knowing the stories can help us develop what path we would like to take.

There are times when what God says doesn’t line up with our sensibilities. We don’t understand, or maybe even, we don’t trust God’s word in certain circumstances. It’s like that day on the freeway. It just didn’t make sense to exit until I saw what was avoided. Lucky for me, the navigator app with its insight had directed my path. It’s that way with God. His ways do not always seem right to us at the time but they can be trusted. They are reliable. He sees the big picture. He knows how things will turn out. And if we just listen and follow. . .

 God will lead us to peace.  


Indeed, my plans are not like your plans,

and my deeds are not like your deeds, for just as the sky is higher than the earth,

so my deeds are superior to your deeds and my plans superior to your plans.

Isaiah 55:8-9 NET

Guide me in the path of your commands, for I delight to walk in it.

Psalm 119:35 NET

Super Bloom

Let the desert and dry region be happy;
let the wilderness rejoice and bloom like a lily!
Let it richly bloom; let it rejoice and shout with delight!
Isaiah 35:1-2 NET

The desert is blooming. Here in California, the most arid of places are awash with color. Purple carpets of tiny flowers cover the desert floor, while yellow blossoms lift their faces to the sun. Bright pinks and vivid whites join the mix to make it one spectacular view.  It will be a short, but very sweet season in this otherwise dry and dusty place.

In the scripture above, Isaiah sings a beautiful song. Not only will the desert land bloom, but so will the people. They will be restored in so many ways when the Water comes to flow in the land. Weak arms and knees will be strengthened, blind eyes healed, hearing restored, and voices unleashed will all be part of God’s presence with man.

Although Isaiah’s audience of the day would not know the final outcome of this song, Jesus would show up many generations down the road to bring a flow of Water that would make all the difference. There would indeed be many wonders and miracles upon His arrival. He would be known to offer a Water that would always satisfy and never leave anyone thirsty. His Water would not only refresh, but also sustain men living in the arid conditions of a desolate world.

This is where that beautiful picture of the desert bloom comes into my mind’s eye. My vision is not of flowers, but rather people standing strong in the face of adversity, their faces lifted to the Son who made it all possible.

In verse four of Isaiah 35 it says,

Tell those who panic, “Be strong! Do not fear! Look, your God comes to avenge! With divine retribution he comes to deliver you.

I see the ‘desert bloom’ as that divine retribution. We have been delivered from a dry, dusty place that was our life, to a place that is growing and flourishing.


More Roots, More Fruit

GOA Meme John 15 2 figs

Over the Christmas holiday season, I bought two small pine trees. Standing in their shiny red pots at the entrance of our home, they made the season just a little merrier as they welcomed our visitors in. But now it is time for those little trees to stretch their roots. There is not enough room in the tiny pots to promote growth. If they stay in their pots they will be stunted and very likely wither and die.

Trees were never meant to be portable. Their roots are supposed to grow down into something much more substantial than a little bit of potting soil. They need to be literally grounded if they are going to thrive.

Grounded: fix firmly; settle or establish; enduring.

A typical tree has hundreds of miles of roots beneath the surface of the ground. They grow every which way in search of life giving moisture and nutrients which are then sent to the branches and leaves above, keeping them fed. This goes for all plants. The deeper and more established the roots, the stronger and more durable the plant. Weak and/or shallow systems create frail branches and lackluster fruit.

God gives some instruction in Leviticus 19 on planting trees that we might find interesting—

“‘When you enter the land and plant any fruit tree, you must consider its fruit to be forbidden. Three years it will be forbidden to you; it must not be eaten. In the fourth year, all its fruit will be holy, praise offerings to the Lord. Then in the fifth year you may eat its fruit to add its produce to your harvest. I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:23-25

Oh, man. . .four years before the Israelites could taste the sweetness of their labors!

I have planted fruit trees myself. I love watching for the blooms to turn into fruit. It’s hard to wait for the fruit to grow sweet and ready to eat. I must admit, I don’t think I could postpone indulging until the fifth year rolls around.

But there is science behind God’s instruction.

Fruit production puts a heavy strain on a tree. In the first years after its planting, the tree is putting down roots and sending up branches. To promote growth, fruit should be picked off before it develops so the tree can put more energy into its pipeline to deliver nutrients. With a healthy root and branch system in place, the tree will be much more vigorous in its fruit production.

Perhaps my entire reason for writing about root growth is this—often we find Christians desiring to produce fruit from a less than healthy root structure. They ignore the value of being firmly fixed to God, settled in His ways, and established in His word. They want to bypass the necessity of growing deep into Him.

Jesus says in John 15, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” Why? Because He wants our roots to grow, reaching down into the One who will empower the growth of much fruit.

Don’t disregard the importance of what cannot be seen below the surface in our lives.

It is so important to what goes on in plain view. We must reach down deep into God, His ways, and His word. In turn, it will allow us to stand tall and produce fruit that can sustain a world who needs its sweetness.

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.

Ephesians 3:16-17 NLT



Family Tree

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him. . .And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:

Genesis 5:1, 3

Recently, I watched an episode of The Waltons.

It is the story of a family in Virginia during the 30s and 40s, and contains a fair amount of history of that time period, mixed in with the joys and struggles found in the everyday life of any family. This particular segment called The Family Tree tells the story of one of the Walton’s neighbors, a woman of African descent named Verdie, and her search for her identity. She confessed that because she knew nothing of her history, she felt as though she was just floating without the grounding factor of legacy. She wanted the roots family history brings.

Perhaps that is why God takes time to remind us where we come from by periodically listing the names of fathers and sons in Scripture.  Notice I said we because this family tree listed in all the ‘begets’ is ours. I think if we take time to realize this is our history, then perhaps the rest of God’s Word will have more meaning to us.  As Christians, this is our legacy, the place we come from: Our people, our stories.

Most of us have some sense of our personal history.

We can track our family tree at least a few generations back. It provides us a roadmap along with a few good tales about where we came from. My husband’s grandfather was a Swedish immigrant who came through Ellis Island with a saxophone in hand. Each time he passed through a station in the process, an immigration officer would mark his jacket with chalk. Not understanding that the mark meant he had been passed through to the next step, Grandpa would brush the white powder off his new suit. This ultimately pushed him back to the end of the line, only to start the process all over. Eventually, he did make it into the country, settled into Boston and married into a family whose ancestor was General Pickering of the Revolutionary War.

My own great grandmother became a Christian. . .

by hearing the gospel preached by Aimee McPherson, founder of the Four Square Church. Grandma took the “love thy neighbor” part of the Bible seriously, giving her a strong sense of duty toward the hungry and disadvantaged. She once stood up to the leaders in her church when they tried to turn a homeless man away from a church social, saying Jesus would be ashamed at their behavior. I may have inherited a bit of spunk from her. Just knowing these things gives me a feeling of belonging to something special.

For Verdie of The Waltons, her search led her to the knowledge that her people were slaves of a once prominent family. Before that, they lived their lives in Africa. They had names. They came from somewhere. Through their story, she discovered her own and in turn, it grounded her soul.

For us, the same is true as we realize these accounts found in the Bible belong to us. . .

as much as they do to Israel. Our story has been one in the making since the beginning of time, back when our people, Adam and Eve, began their lives in the Garden of Eden. They extend down through time to the birth of our Savior, Jesus, and  beyond through the early church, and on to what’s to come in our future. These stories are personal, so when you read the lists of names, remember the stories of those who came before us. They are our great, great, great granddaddies, after all.

. . . And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.
Matthew 1:16 KJV