Jesus tells us to love our neighbors, as ourselves. Great! But how do we do that, when we do not first love ourselves? And for that matter… how do we love ourselves? Is it about a pampered day at a spa?
No – unless of course you plan to love those around you that way, and you believe that is what Jesus had in mind.
I believe we love ourselves by taking care of our minds, bodies and souls. Beginning with the soul – we give our hearts, our faith, to Jesus. We feed that soul with His word. We feed our soul with good music that moves us to a closer relationship with Him. We are involved in church – His body. We talk with Him – daily. We cherish the gifts from God – our spouse, children… all of it.
Loving our bodies is easy to define, but hard to do. We eat better and exercise – this is love. We go to the doctor for check ups – this is love. There is more here but that’s the basics.
Loving our minds can be a bit tricky. The main ways we love our minds is through positive mental health and controlling the things we allow into our heads. Mental health includes the depression and anxiety we deal with. The grief that we often ignore due to busyness. The need to speak to a professional because it is overwhelming. Unpacking the past – the tragedies and neglect, the hurts and the hang ups. All of it. The truth is that unless we deal with it, one day it will deal with us. And how can we love someone else, who is going through the valley of the shadow of death, when we refuse to deal with our own?
Finally, we love our minds by controlling the inputs. The world has a message for you that may not be healthy for your mind to hear. They could be selling you things that are a lie. Social media can be good and can be bad. Too much of it has been shown to be bad for our mental health. They portray images of perfect families, on perfect vacations and leave out the pain and challenges – they leave out “the rest of the story.” I recommend taking a social media fast. Make it a week, minimum. See how you feel about it at the end of the week.
When we do these things- and for the record, this is not a comprehensive list – we will be loving ourselves. Now- go love your neighbor as you have loved yourself.
When I hear the word “good”, I think of things that bring a smile, or something that is positive in my life or the world. I think of a light rain that waters the grass. I think of a beautiful sunrise or sunset. I think of the embrace of my wife and her kisses. I think of how God describes His creation…
It is difficult for my human brain to understand how a day filled with severe, disfiguring pain can be good. Two beams of wood, three large spikes, and a long walk to Golgotha… can’t be good, right? To think of these spikes, driven into the hands and feet of Jesus Christ as he is nailed to the cross…
To imagine him placed on this cross, where He struggled to breathe, until He breathed His last… All of this while He is forgiving His executors, and inviting the one next to Him to join Him in paradise… how can we describe this as anything but horrific and tragic?
And yet… it was good.
This is Friday and all appears to be lost… but Sunday’s coming… to use all the pain and suffering for the good.
Jesus was placed in a tomb by Joseph of Arimathea. Along with Nicodemus, they wrapped Jesus’s body in burial cloth. They rolled a big stone over the front of the tomb, and walked away… Their thoughts are not recorded but can you imagine what they were thinking? Burying someone who had taught and performed miracles before them…
Guards were placed outside the tomb for fear that someone might come and take the body.
His disciples hid for fear that His fate would be their own. Women wept and planned to come back to the tomb and give His body the traditional burial treatments.
In their grief, everyone thought it was over… But God…
In God’s economy, the word “good” is not used often. The first time it is used was when God described His creation. So if we take that meaning and apply it to this day of events, we can see He is calling it Creation Level Good! What He is saying is that what has happened on Friday is about to change the world! And change the world in a way that is beyond anyone’s capacity to comprehend.
You see, what appears to be over and impossible… does not necessarily make it so. With God… all things are possible.
Two Questions I always ask those who are assembled –
Is there anyone that can see any reason why these two should not be married, if so speak now or forever hold your peace?
Who here will be willing to support this marital union with the love and support they will need on this life long journey?
Marriage is an institution created by God – We find this in Genesis 2:24 where God says –
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh.”
(Talk about the meaning of leave & cleave)
Instructions for Husbands continue –
1 Peter 3:7 – Likewise Husbands, dwell them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel
(Talk about knowledge – come back to weaker vessel in the Unity Heart)
Then finally – Ephesians 5:25
Instructions for Wife – Ephesians talks a lot about marriage – one of the main things I want to mention is the idea of respect – Which is the greatest need of men – to be respected and Eph 5:33 tells us this clearly. Earlier it also talks about submitting to your husband, as to the Lord, as the head of the house. While I realize that some of these concepts are not popular in todays society, I can tell you that if you have a marriage filled with the love of God for one another, it is as natural as breathing, especially when we look at a previous passage that tells you guys to submit one to another in the fear of God.
After hearing all of that – let’s proceed with the vows.
“Will you (Gary Ken Briden, Jr./Amanda Lee Cosby) have this woman/man to be your wife/husband, to live together in holy marriage? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor, and keep her/him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her/him as long as you both shall live?”
Then Repeat after me
“In the name of God, I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.”
Exchange of rings
Rings are a symbol of love and the nature of love that has no beginning or end. You see I believe that this kind of love is a gift from God, that was ordained from long before and was therefore just waiting to be discovered and it just continues through eternity.
Ken – repeat after me – “With this ring, I thee wed.”
Amanda – repeat after me – “With this ring I thee wed.”
Prior to this wedding we had two hearts here – and they are represented by these two sculptures. The grooms is the outer and the brides is the inner. The grooms is representative of a sturdy sense of strength, protection and security but by itself is empty. The brides heart is represented here as an intricately carved piece of artwork, beautiful but by itself is left unprotected – I want to talk a moment about the Biblical Idea of the “Weaker Vessel” and what this means…
When we put these together, by themselves they are beautiful but still there is a third element that ties it all together and makes them one – the power that created the Universe, who invited love and marriage – God Almighty.
I now pronounce you husband and wife – you may kiss the bride.
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I be the first to present to you – Mr. & Mrs. Briden!
This weekend, I was asked to perform a wedding, as an ordained minister, it isn’t my first time but it was really special – this was my first time back in this role in almost two years and it was for a good friend who works for me. I have seen this friend of mine go from homeless to hopeful to hopelessly in love and it has been a beautiful transformation to watch. The pain of a past relationship/marriage breakup, whose wounds were still fresh, seemed to be soothed and healed by the refreshing balm of love. This is beautiful – transformative.
I included my notes from this wedding just as a backdrop to a larger truth – if we set out with our hearts open to what God has for us, we too can experience the beautiful and transformative love of our Creator. It may not be in the form of a wedding, a new relationship but it will always be miraculous.
In this life, we see so much… but the two constants are the unchanging love of God and the fact that everything else around us is changing. So with everything around us changing at the speed of technology, social media and the general craziness this world brings to us everyday, I believe that having a firm foundation in love of God, whom is unchanging, is essential.
With so many hurting people in this world that are in dire need of love and positive change in their lives, along with a positive self-image, that is not drive by social media or the trends of the day, I am modifying the name of this blog to – #YOUR LIFE MATTERS – The Transformation Project. My goal is to change the world, one story, one life, one heart at a time.
But I will let you in on a little secret – I can’t do it by myself. Will you help? Will you share the stories, commit to helping one person have a better life this year and encourage others to do the same? If so, together, we can create a movement that truly does change the world.
When we are at our lowest, God promises to be there. In the 23rd Psalm, David says,
“Tho I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they protect me.”
The song that is included in this post was written by a man acquainted with the valley of the shadow of death but not his own – His wife and little unborn child. Tommy Dorsey was leading the music at a revival south of his hometown Chicago when he got the telegram that his wife had died in childbirth.
He got home as soon as he could, only to find that the child had died as well. It broke Tommy in ways that few can get their arms wrapped around. He told everyone that he was walking away from God and leaving gospel music forever.
A few weeks later a friend came to visit him. He was worried about his grieving friend. So he went in and convinced him to take a drive with him. His friend was a Christian but he knew better than to begin preaching at Tommy. So he took him to a school and they walked into the music room. His friend walked over to the piano, Tommy Dorsey’s long time companion in writing literally thousands of gospel tunes. Tommy followed him and sat down on the piano bench.
He began to cry almost instantly. He opened the cover and began to play the tune that this post began with. He later recalled that it was like the Holy Spirit came to him in that moment and poured that song into him.
When we are in the valley of pain and loss, we can be assured that God knows it and is coming to lead us through it. If you are in the pit today know that you are not alone – God is there with you. Call out to Him and I know there are tears and pain now but He promises to wipe away all those tears. Listen and enjoy this next song and let it encourage you as well.
“But you don’t know how bad I am …. I have ___________________! There is no hope for me – I am doomed, helpless and hopeless.”
I have heard this many times and even said it myself. Our society can be pretty unforgiving of the mistakes of the past. A record can follow you forever.
But what is interesting is that some of the most famous, interesting and successful people have a record. They have been to the pit. I remember hearing T.D. Jakes preach one day about a Pastors conference he had attended. He was recalling the Pastors stories of faithfulness and many had only been married once and had served the church all their life. He said –
“While all those stories were great and I am very happy for them, they had nothing to say to me. You can’t help me if you have never been through anything.”
Bishop Jakes story rang really true to me. Then I recalled the story of the Maniac of Gadares. Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee just to see him and it changed everything. This man couldn’t live with the rest of the people. They tried to chain him but he was so crazy that he broke the chains. He lived in a cemetery, probably waiting to die – wanting to die. Anybody been there?
After one touch – one word from Jesus, his life was different. In fact, he was so different and the change so radical, that it scared the people of the closest town. The man wanted to leave with Jesus but Jesus knew that this man had a mission. Jesus told him –
“Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee and had compassion on thee.” Mark 5:19b
Do you know what the man did? – exactly what Jesus told him to do. Yet, not only did he go home, on the way there he…
“…and began to publish in Decapolis [Ten Cities] how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.” v. 20
Real change is possible! Jesus can take you from insanity to peace. This transformation is what Paul describes as “You are God’s Masterpiece, created anew in Christ Jesus…” (Eph.2:10 NLT). But you are not saved to sit. You are not transformed to be placed upon a pedestal and pose. You are saved to serve – transformed to testify. The Maniac of Gadares published, which means to spread the mission far and wide, and the people all marveled. His life now made a difference, where before he only wanted to die and he had to be locked away. Now that he was free on the inside, he shared it with all who would listen.
You too have a mission – Paul continues to tell us in that same verse,
“created anew in Christ Jesus for the good works ordained for you from the beginning.”
God has a plan for you and it is a good one. God had Jeremiah, the prophet, tell people in “captivity” aka -Jail, this:
“For I know the plans I have for you, saith the Lord. Plans for good, not destruction. To give you a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
There is more here but I want to stop and hear from you. Let me know what you think and if you want to talk more about this reach out to me. I would be honored to hear from you. Maybe you want to share your story of transformation – this is a good forum to do so. I will accept guest blog posts about this topic as well. Have a blessed day and let not just talk about – let’s be about it!
In the passage – Isaiah 61:1-3 – we all want to rush off to the “Beauty… and the oil of joy… and the garment of praise’
Before there could be an exchange for beauty – there had to be a fire to create the ashes. That means that something went horribly wrong. Yet, Christ has an answer for that to. In order to get to that we must begin with the ….
We have to
Jesus Came to Preach the Good News to the meek
To bind up the brokenhearted
To set free those that are bound
To open the prison doors and set the prisoner free
The meek are
The One’s whose lives are just not want they ought to be and they know they need a change.
Some of the Meek in Jesus day were the Tax Collector’s, the prostitutes, the people that no one else wanted to have anything to do with – because they knew they needed help.
The Meek are really you and me – He came for us! Sinners in need of a Savior. But if we miss that then we can miss the greatest gift the universe has ever seen or will ever see.
To bind up the broken hearted
Anybody here eve have their heart broken?
Anybody here ever lost anything precious to them?
Anybody here ever been lied to by the person they are supposed to be able to trust?
Christ came to deal with those hurts in a way that only He can – I call it Holy Heart Surgery.
The passage says He came to bind up the broken hearted – so that means that He is reaching inside of us, at the point where the pain is greatest, where the need for healing is the greatest and where if healing doesn’t come, all the rest will be wrecked.
He isn’t just touching it, He is binding – hearts take time to heal so He binds them so that they can.
To set free those that are bound
These things can be more oppressive than any prison.
To set the prisoner free
The Bible is full of examples of this chainbreaking freedom
To me the greatest example was the thief on the cross – He wasn’t set free from the penalty that the worlds system had imposed upon him but he was set free from a far greater eternal punishment – He was in paradise that day!
Beauty for Ashes –
Before there were ashes – there had to have been a fire.
What caused the Fire
Fill in the blank
Why didn’t the fire get put out sooner?
Why did it burn to the ground
Why did it get out of control
What was the trigger
What fueled it
What do we do with the mess?
Did anybody Notice?
Can hide it?
How do I begin again?
How can I put my life back together?
YOU CAN’T – HE CAN!
Didn’t Surprise God
Ashes can’t be restored – they blow in the wind
Jesus will take those ashes and give you something new – Beauty
The beauty is Himself
The beauty is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit
The beauty is an eternal home
The beauty is an everlasting hope
The beauty is healing
The beauty is transformative
The beauty includes the gifts of the Spirit
The beauty gives us the confidence to say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Phil 4:13
The beauty tells me that I am more than a conqueror
The beauty tells me that I am not my own any longer – I am a child of the King – saved by grace – adopted into the family of God
The beauty means that I am now “ God’s Masterpiece – created anew in Christ Jesus for the Good Works that He ordained since the beginning of time.”
The beauty means that I have a job – “ the good works” “ to build, raise up & restore”
The beauty give me double for my trouble.
The beauty restores my family
YES – REAL CHANGE IS POSSIBLE! THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED IN YOUR LIFE DOESN’T HAVE TO DEFINE YOU!
Jesus Christ will perform this Great Exchange & do for you what you cannot do for yourself.
THE OIL of Joy for mourning!
If there is mourning, there is loss
Loss takes on many forms
Loss of a loved one
“ “ friend
Christ understands – He wept when he saw the mourning of the people who loved Lazarus
He promises the Oil of Joy for Mourning
Oil is thick
Oil sticks with us
Oil soaks in and goes down deep
Oil becomes a part of who we are
SINCE IT IS THE OIL OF JOY –
His joy is thick
His Joy can stick to us like glue
His Joy can sink down into our hearts and change everything
His Joy becomes a part of who we are
But we have to be willing to say – LORD, I’m hurting and I need healing – my heart is broken and only you can heal it.
Binding – Oil – And a touch from the Masters Hand – The Great Physician.
THE GARMENT OF PRAISE FOR THE SPIRIT OF HEAVINESS
Depression – The worries of the world weighing you down? This is one of the greatest problems in America today. Many have a general sense of hopelessness because there is a general decline in the morality of America, a decline in the family unity and way more problems than we have the time to go into here. The common denominator with all of them is the fact that each day, God is being taken further and further out of this society.
The answer is Jesus Christ – when we turn to Him and give Him our lives to Him, we can put on the garment of praise. Depression cannot remain when we are praising God.
I can tell you from experience that this has happened to me. I could feel depression like an 800lb guerilla on my shoulders. I gave my life to Christ at the lowest point in my life and the ugly monster of depression got up off my shoulders and walked out the door.
You need to know that sometimes depression has come back to visit to me. When it does, it sneaks in like a thief, trying to steal my joy and make me not want to praise. I find myself praying and wondering what is wrong. What I learned is that, on my own, I cannot win but if I will turn to God, depression will flee. So let’s get practical – how do you do that? What I will do is pray and then put Christian music in my ears as I go about my day. When I do this, before I know it, I am praising God and depression is no where to be found. I have put on the garment of praise and there is no room for anything else.
Where does this leave us?
Christ has a great plan for you and me. He came for us – at our worst – He came for us. He came to bring healing, to set us free and cut us loose from the pain of our past decisions. When we turn fully to Him, we get the exchange of beauty for the burned out shell of an existence that we had before – aka “Ashes”. We get the oil of joy for mourning over the past destructions of life and peace that we experienced. Then we get the garment of praise, for the weight of the world we use to carry around with us. He does all of this because He has a plan for us.
He wants to be planted by the river so that we can be examples of grace – for His glory.
Then He has a job for us –
“And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolation of many generations… For your shame ye shall receive double; and for confusion they shall rejoice in their portion; therefore in their land they shall possess the double: everlasting joy shall be unto them.” Isaiah 61:4 & 7
You have a job – a divine mission that has a specific reward.
There are many times when we go through things and we have no idea why. In fact, we may voice the following to God –
“Why would You allow me to go through this? What did I do to deserve this?”
In previous posts we have talked about King Jehoshaphat and the trouble and the trials he went through and the time he was almost killed for hanging out with King Ahab. He learned in that trial that his hope and only real strength could be found in God Almighty. In Chapter 19 of 2nd Chronicles we see that he brought the whole nation into a full on revival.
When a football team goes through Spring Training or two-a-days before the season starts they are being prepared for something – the games. So King Jehoshaphat was being prepared for something as well – war – but not just any old skirmish. No, a group of armies from at least three different kingdoms had joined together to come up against Judah.
These forces vastly outnumbered the King’s army and he could see very quickly that he was in trouble. So what was he to do? What would you do? The King did what he had been prepared to do – Call On God!
“And said, ‘O LORD God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? And rule not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? And in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to stand thee?…. And now behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir…. Come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given to us… O Our God, wilt thou not judge them? For we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee.” 2nd Chron. 20:6-12
This is not the typical response of a king. Most military leaders would be all about rallying the troops – making battle preparations – calling on allies and anything else they can think of. But this king was different – he was a man of God. His previous tests and trials had shown him that his King could be trusted at just such a time as this. King Jehoshaphat was not disappointed.
God sent a message through a prophet that told him…
“…Thus saith the Lord unto you, ‘Be not afraid, nor be dismayed by reason of the great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God’s.” vs. 15
WOW! What a message. Now the word went on to give them instructions. They had to go out to the field of battle but they would not fight; only observe what God was going to do for them. So the next morning, the King got everyone together and went out as instructed. On the way to the battlefield, the king stopped everyone and decided to make one of the boldest statements of faith I have seen in scripture. He put the choir out in front of the army to sing praises to God. Telling the world of God’s greatness and that His mercy endures forever. Again, this is not the typical battlefield strategy but God doesn’t require our ingenuity to be successful. He wants us to believe and testify.
Here’s what happened next –
“And when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten. For the children of Ammon and Moab stood up against …Mount Seir, utterly to destroy them: and when they had made an end of … Seir, [then] everyone helped to destroy another… none escaped.” Vs. 22-24
So what is our take away from this event? I believe that it should give us great confidence in the face of our daily tests and trials; knowing that there is a greater purpose than we can begin to imagine. I believe that we should be willing to step out in faith, even in the midst of impossible odds, knowing that God is with us and that means everything.
This story should also force us to look inward and check our faith in the mirror and ask the question – Do I really believe? Do I truly trust? For a long time I said all the right words but down deep, my belief was in me – If it’s to be, it’s up to me. That strategy didn’t work out so well. Today, I have been through the valley and the enemy is overwhelming in my tiny personal perspective. But when I turn my eye to He who created the world and place my trust in Him saying – I don’t know what to do but my eyes are on YOU LORD – He makes a way through it or delivers me from it, using methods and people that I would have never known were available. My King is bigger than all the kings of this world and no weapon formed against me will prosper.
If you are going through a tough time right now, I want you to do something that seems to be against everything the world teaches – put the choir out front. Begin to praise God for the challenge, the test and the trial. The only reason your going through it is to prepare you for something even greater and a victory so large that it can’t be contained. That’s what He did King Jehoshaphat – the spoils of that victory took his men 3 days to gather up and carry back to Jerusalem – that was a lot of stuff. But not only that, the chapter goes on to say that –
“And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel.” vs. 29
What you may be going through right now may just be a prelude to not only a great victory but a huge testimony for the Glory of God and an incredible blessing for you.
Most people struggle with life. The number of people in this country on anti-depressants alone is staggering. Incidents of divorce and suicide are epidemic and violence is everywhere. Teens are falling away from the church at an alarming rate. The prison recidivism rate is staggering. There had to be something for those that simply need to recover from life in a world that is so very broken and hurting. When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, the brokenness began. Yet, even in this world gone mad, God’s Word shows us that He has made a way for us through the wilderness. He has given us a Savior that is in the transformation business. That Savior is Jesus Christ.
I know that some people doubt that real change is possible. In fact, you may be one of those people. They usually land in one of two camps:
I am too bad to be fixed, or
That person can’t be redeemed – they are too far gone.
While you are looking at my story, which will begin in the next post, I am going to ask you to look honestly at the reflection you see in the mirror in your own life. What I am asking of you can be a very hard thing to do. Many say that they feel overwhelmed by the gravity of their personal pain and that they would rather just bury it and refuse to deal with it than go through this. But as you bury the past, you are also digging a grave for yourself. You need to know that there is life on the other side of brokenness – a life full of the grace of God Almighty. God made me a “Transformation Project” and He can and will do the same for you! In the Book of Isaiah, the prophet writes about the coming of Christ and His mission of transformation. It’s a systematic plan that can take away the worst and remake them into the man o woman God intended. And just like Job, He can give you double for your trouble. Or like Joseph, He can take you from the pit to the palace. So, if you are in a bad place today, please hear me no matter how bad things may look, no matter what you have done, Jesus Christ has more for you than you could ever imagine. The writing that follows will let you know that whether your problem is alcohol, drugs, greed or abuse or even the worst criminal on death row awaiting his or her execution date, Jesus Christ cares deeply for you and passionately wants to do for you what that passage in Isaiah said He came to do. You can become His next Transformation Project.
“The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to them that are bound… to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness… And they shall build… For your shame you shall have double [the reward]; everlasting joy shall be unto them.” Isaiah 61:1, 3, 4, 7
You may have big doubts about all of this right now and that is alright. God is bigger than any doubt you may have. God made a way for you and me to be transformed way before we were ever born. I believe that this blog will dispel both myths. As you read my story, there will be times when you will see a very ugly picture. Sometimes, it will get so bad you may find it hard to imagine that this person survived. Yet, by walking through these steps, Jesus Christ turned my life around that people who knew me before, won’t believe it’s really. I have already been told that a few times.
Stay tuned – Monday begins my story, The Transformation Project.