“It’s going to be good!”

When I was a little girl, eternity looked pretty boring to me. Was life with God going to be like one long church service? No good books to read for hours? No horses to ride? No creeks to play in? No ball games? No friends to share with? Were we just going to wander aimlessly around heaven with nothing to occupy our hands and minds other than singing praises?

Frankly, the heaven in my imagination was so unappealing that I couldn’t summon up much enthusiasm for spending even a weekend there, much less endless time. But one thing I did know: heaven was preferable to the hell pictured by the preachers, so of course I must focus on heaven.

That was a young girl’s limited imagination. Now, many decades later, I still can’t imagine the great plans God has for His children. But I’m much more excited about stepping into them and discovering what He has in store for us.

Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure (1 John 3:2-3 NLT).

In these verses we have a promise that is far beyond the imagination of anyone, young or old. We can only look forward and say, “Wow. What will that be like?”

We will be like Christ. God began the process when He opened the way and invited us to come back to Him. He continued the plan when He adopted us as sons and daughters, siblings, if you will, of Christ. He gave us glimpses of the future when He sent His Son to model for us how to live out the life of His kingdom — pure, devoted to God, in close relationship with Him. And then God ripped open the limits of our earthly lives when He raised His dead Son to life, pulling apart the curtain to give us a peek and say, “This is your future too!”

As a guarantee of that future, He planted within us the beginnings of transformation. His own Holy Spirit is working as you read this, transforming, connecting you to your Creator and your God, the one who loved you so much He came into your world to rescue you.

And here’s the promise: the ultimate end of this process is that we will be like Christ.

That’s amazing to me for a number of reasons. My first thought is of how far I am—now—from being like Christ. I know I share His Spirit, but I also daily experience the war that still rages within, between my old person and the new person the Spirit has birthed and wants to grow.

Secondly, I wonder what it will be to be like our Lord. We will be like our God? That’s a bold statement. Yet we were created in God’s likeness in the beginning. He paid the price to bring His lost children back. He is now in the process of creating again — He’s established His kingdom and He is creating new lives in His people. And yes, this is the promise: His new creations will indeed share in all that Christ is and has!

I do not yet understand how seeing Him “as He is” will complete the transformation, but I suspect that knowing Christ fully, being with Him face to face, will have a transformative effect on me. We know that even now, the more time we spend with our Lord, the more He can change our minds, hearts, thoughts, and actions. Yet our sight is clouded. When we see Him clearly and when we are fully with Him, what exciting and incredible things will surely happen to all of us who love Him?

I take from this another promise: I will someday see His love clearly. I’ll be able to see it on His face and in His eyes and feel it in His touch and hear it in His voice, and I will finally understand the love that is so deep and wide and beyond my comprehension now. We know that in our life here, being loved has transforming powers. Perhaps knowing Christ’s love fully and finally seeing its depth will transform us completely. For now, it is enough for me to know that I will see Him and know, face to face, how much He loves me.

So, John writes, let’s work at keeping ourselves pure because we are headed for this exciting future. Of course John knew, just as we know today, that perfection before God is impossible—we still stumble and fall short of Christ’s purity and sinlessness. John knew this reality, and he reminds us (in chapter 1 verse 9) that God uses even our sin and confession to cleanse and change us, working toward the future promise of our complete transformation.

My little girl imagination had such narrow limits. Even now, my grown-up imagination can only go so far. But Scripture says that all of this Good News of what God is doing is so wonderful that even the angels are eagerly watching as it all unfolds.*

As one of my friends says, “It’s going to be good!”


*see 1 Peter 1:12




In response to my post on being thankful for the difficult in our lives, a friend’s comments included this line: “A whittling down of ourselves to make us what we need to be.”

That’s a fascinating word. Whittle. It immediately brings ups a related word: carve.

Think of the words we pair with those two.

We whittle away or whittle down. Skilled fingers take a piece of wood and cut away a bit here and a chunk there until eventually, they hold a work of art. We even use this phrase to describe working , bit by bit, at a large project. We whittle away at it; and eventually—the finished result!

We carve out. Sculptors are sometimes quoted as saying they see what is in a piece of marble or a slab of wood before they even start their work. Carving is a prying away of the unnecessary, inessential, inappropriate, irrelevant—until the image the creator has “seen” finally emerges.

Isn’t that the way God forms and molds us? He is at work, whittling away the things in our lives that need to go in order for His masterpiece to finally emerge. “Whittling down of ourselves to make us what we need to be.”

We were created in the image of God! (Doesn’t that just take your breath away?) But as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, we’ve inherited so much that sullies and burdens and binds and tarnishes that image. We’ve taken on selfishness and disobedience and pride. All of us had trained as citizens of the kingdom of darkness instead of sons and daughters in the kingdom of light.

Yet God’s promise is that we are now His masterpiece, created anew! There are many days I don’t feel like a masterpiece of any kind … let alone a masterpiece of the great Creator. But this word “whittling” has opened a new thought for me. God is whittling away at this chunk of wood I know as Me. He sees the image within; He knows what He has created there (a new person, with a new life born of HIS Spirit!) and He is carving out that image, bit by bit cutting away everything else.

And that is exactly why we can be thankful in all things, even the difficult and trying and painful. God promises that He is at work on His new creation within us. He knows what He intends to make us. He knows what needs to go. He whittles away all the old stuff Self has collected, so that the new life He has given us can grow and thrive. 

Most of the time, we don’t like the whittling. It often means going through hard times. It involves learning new habits and discarding old and comfortable attitudes. It’s discipline, and that requires effort and stretching. Yet Scriptures says this is a sign the Lord loves us!

We often erroneously equate discipline with punishment. Discipline is training, forming, instruction, and exercise. (Think about the discipline of an athlete.) The Lord is disciplining, training, and forming us as His masterpiece. Through everything, He’s whittling away.

From the testing and trials—and remember, those tests and trials are in the day-to-day details just as much as they are in outright persecution—He builds endurance and faith and patience and godliness. As He whittles down ourselves, the image He intends to create in us emerges.

“So be truly glad,” says Peter. “There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you have to endure many trials for a little while” (1 Peter 1:6). What better hope than to know that the Creator is still at work on His creation in me!



Power for Hopeless Cases … for God’s Glory

Just finished reading Levi’s Will, a novel by W. Dale Cramer. In one scene, Will asks his boss and best friend, Barefoot, what God wants of us. Barefoot’s reply is, “Beats me,” but we get the feeling that he knows …

As they sit by the pond with a fishing pole, Will’s wife brings them both iced tea. Will takes a sip and promptly spits it out; she has not put sugar in his tea because he must alter his diet since his heart attack. Barefoot enjoys his drink; his has the usual large dose of sugar.

As the discussion goes on, Barefoot takes Will’s almost full glass of tea and pours some of it into his own half-empty glass. Then he pours part of it back into Will’s glass; and then again pours into his own. Back and forth he pours, until both men are enjoying glasses of sweetened, good tea.

I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.

For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation — the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ — for this will bring much glory and praise to God.

In the same way that Barefoot pours his sweetened tea into Will’s, mixes it and changes it, so the Spirit teaches us, leads us step by step into greater knowledge and understanding. The fruits of the Spirit become more and more evident in our lives, as Jesus Christ’s Spirit begins to produce in us His own character. 

This is God’s agenda in our lives. His plan is to give us a new life, one that takes on the very character of Christ. If you see nothing else in the Scripture above, remember this phrase: the righteous character produced by Jesus Christ.

We can’t produce it ourselves. For a long time, I thought this was what being a Christian was all about:  I must do this, I must not do that, I’ve got to be more of this, less of that. And I was a colossal failure at producing that character. Doing it on my own was pretty much hopeless. I was that undrinkable tea.

Instead, the character and the fruit it produces come from a new life birthed in us by the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit sustains and molds that life. He is the one who produces the fruit. Jesus pours more and more of His own character into each child who has been adopted into the family of God.

Is it so difficult to believe that the Spirit of God lives within you and is changing you? 

You believe and understand that this happens on a human level. Within hours of a child’s birth, people are looking for Daddy’s dimples or Mom’s eyes or Big Sister’s nose. We take it further than the physical; we say that “He has his dad’s business savvy” or “She’s got her grandfather’s gumption” or “She has her mother’s sweet disposition.”

God birthed a new life in us by planting His Spirit within. Scriptures say we are born of the Spirit. He’s brought us into His family, and He intends to make us like the Son of God.

(Just wondering — Do we look for “family” characteristics showing up in other children of God? Or are we so preoccupied with recalling an old life that God says is dead and gone that we can’t see and encourage the new in others and in ourselves?)

Yes, there is still something “I” must do — I must throw open all of myself to the power of the Holy Spirit. And then what He does with all of us “hopeless” cases is amazing.

The new life and character we exhibit bring glory and praise to the Lord of all Creation. Of course!  We cannot fix ourselves; we cannot produce a new character no matter how hard we try; we are pretty much hopeless left on our own. But God, working in us, can do all of that … more than we can even imagine.   

As Jesus pours Himself into us and His Spirit leads us step by step into truth, we start looking more and more like the One who is Truth. 


Scripture: Philippians 1:9-11 (NLT)


Transformation in the Sanctuary

Take a look at Psalms 73. It opens with a verse about the pure in heart.

You might immediately hear that voice in your head saying, “Well, I would not fit in that category.”   Or perhaps you’re remembering some of your definitely un-Christlike moments this weekend. Maybe already this morning you’ve blown it, yet again.

If so, you’ll identify more with verse 2:

But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.

The writer of Psalm 73 knows his heart is not pure. He’s bitter and envious; the bad guys are not getting the punishment they deserve. They seem to be living trouble-free lives and have everything anyone could ever want, while I seem to have nothing but pain and trouble. Where’s the justice, God?

So he takes his questions and complaints to God. Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.

Psalm 73 is about a cleansing of heart, and here’s the key: Then I went into your sanctuary.

In the psalmist’s time, all kinds of regulations determined how and when one could approach God. When Christ died, He ripped all barriers away. Not only did He give us access to God, but now God comes and lives with us. The sanctuary where we meet God, where He opens our eyes and transforms our hearts, is no longer a literal building. It’s where you are sitting right now. Immanuel!

But back to this sad soul who knows his heart is not right and that he’s not doing so well in his walk with God.

In His sanctuary, God does have some answers to the writer’s questions about the wicked. But we’ll leave that for now. Something even more important happens: in God’s sanctuary, the psalmist sees his own heart: 

Then I realized my heart was bitter,
and I was all torn up inside.
I was so foolish and ignorant —

Sound familiar? How many times I have said that about myself!  How many times I have denied myself inclusion in the “pure in heart” category. How many times my feet have slipped.

And that brings us to the good news. Yes. Good news in spite of what we may think about our failures. Good news, my friend, that you will hear in the sanctuary when you go to your Father. 

Yet still I belong to you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
leading me to a glorious destiny.

Wow. I belong to Him. He knows I am dust, and still He claims me. This is a look at God’s heart.

And because I belong to Him, He continues to hold me by the hand, guide me with His counsel, and — doesn’t this just take your breath away? — lead me on toward a glorious destiny!

When we hear those words in the sanctuary, when those words picturing God’s love for us settle into our hearts, we are transformed. We go from feeling as though we are almost gone (v. 2) to knowing this:

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.

The psalmist opened by saying, “But as for me … I’m slipping and almost gone.” Now, after that transforming meeting with God in His sanctuary, he says, “Yes, I see that anyone who deserts God will be destroyed, will perish …

But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
    I have made the sovereign LORD my shelter,
    and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

What comfort it is to be near God, to take shelter in Him, to know that we belong to the Father and He does not desert us.  We come into His sanctuary, and we are changed.

Transforming Light

“The whole earth is full of his glory.” That song of the seraphim has come to mind almost daily in the last week, as I watch the world turn red and gold.

I remember this day in the woods with a friend as a walk through golden air.

Today is gray and rainy, and I’m reminded again how light can change everything, even when darkness is threatening and clouds hang over us.

Yesterday my almost-three-year-old grandson visited me. He looked around and said, “There are lights shining everywhere.”

Yes, I am a lamp freak. Some women can’t resist a sale on shoes; I like to shop for lamps. The right lighting, in my opinion, can transform a room.

And this is what I want: the glory of the Lord filling my heart-house, shining its light everywhere, transforming me.

This old commandment — to love one another — is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you are also living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.

Love is the basis of so much of Jesus’ teaching. Loving God. Loving one another. Loving even your enemies. But how hard that is to actually live out!

This verse is a comfort to me. It assures me that the Spirit is working in me to banish dark places of my heart, to shine the true Light that transforms me and makes me more and more like Christ Himself.

That is one of the hopes we have as Christians. The Light changes us! We learn to live the truth of Jesus’ commands, especially that all-important-but-really-tough command to love one another.

And as we are changed, the Light shines more brightly, transforms situations and relationships, brings God’s truth to the corner of the world where we spend our days.

Yes, Lord, this is what I want: the darkness disappearing, the true Light shining!

And I believe that verse refers not just to each disciple of Christ, but also to His church as a body. His kingdom is now. His light transforms now. He fills us with His glory and transforms us — and the world around us — with His light, as His church lives the truth of His commandment to love one another.


Scripture: Isaiah 6:3 (NIV); 1 John 1:7-8 (NLT)