Pastor Emilio De La Cruz
Chapter One: Changes
You're young and then you're old
Together then alone
You play and then you work
You have it all then it's the last chapter of the book
Seasons change but God stays the same
His love never changes
His mercy never fails
The same loving kindness
His goodness shall prevail
You climbed every mountain but that was long ago
you killed every giant you're brave or so you're told
But God stays the same
He saved you yesterday He walks with you today
He will be there tomorrow forever He's the same
As long as you live, change will be a part of your life. We try to build stability and predictability. We create routine and find comfort in the familiar. Nothing wrong with that. Change creates the unknown. What is going to happen, how is it going to affect me? What are the variables? Change creates tension, insecurity, fear of the unknown. Its said that the best time to get people to attend church is when they are going through some kind of life change. A new baby, a new location. Change creates a sense of need. We search for something that won’t change. In a changing world, in a life of changes, Jesus is the rock that never changes. He is the same Yesterday today and forever.
You’re young and then your not young anymore. You feel the change from careless youth to the adult life of responsibilities. You move out of moms house and wish you could go back, some kids never leave, they can’t handle the change. You live a life of health, strength and productivity. You climb the corporate ladder. Then before you know it, another change. The kids are married and your thinking about retirement. Life itself brings us changes that we cannot escape from. Some changes are exciting. Going off to college, getting married, having your first baby, and your second. Moving into the new house. Other changes are tragic. Losing a loved one, losing a house, losing a job, losing a marriage. And yet other changes, a lot of changes in life are what we make of them.
We have to find courage in times of change. We have to learn to face our changes with faith and a positive attitude. Start with the little changes. Your wife rearranges the furniture, your husband rearranges your schedule. You’re moved to a new position at your job. Find courage, faith and a positive attitude. Learn to accept change, to navigate it, to embrace it. Life is a life of changes. God is a God of changes.
Theres another kind of change. This is the change that I will be focusing on. The changes that God makes in you. Changes that are designed to transform you.
Changes in the Christian life
Salvation is the biggest change that will ever occur in a lifetime. Some experience the change more than others but regardless the change is huge. From death to life, from darkness to life, from a stranger to a son. Being born again, born of the Spirit, born from above. From a slave to sin to joint heir with Jesus. 2 Corinthians 5:17 say “Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature, all old things have passed away behold all things become new!” My understanding is that the greek word used here to explain the change is “metamorphosis”. The same process that transforms a caterpillar into a butterfly. Have you ever thought about what happens inside that cocoon? Whatever it is that happens the result is amazing. From a crawling creature to a beautiful butterfly able to soar through the air with ease.
What happens after this is just as important. For God to continue the transformation process in our lives we need to be restored. Even though our spirit has been transformed our soul must undergo a continual process of transformation. For this process to be effective we have to experience restoration. Our minds and emotions must be healed, some of us need a lot more of this than others. I came to Christ from a broken, dysfunctional, chaotic home. I came to Christ from a past of deep rejection, abuse, drug addiction, violence, hate, anger. All of that and more. My born again experience was radical. But I needed a lot of healing. So many skip this stage of transformation to move on to the next. Discipleship. We are formed into disciples. To deny yourself and take up your cross. To go from a selfish life to a serving life. To transition from receiving to giving. To learn to make sacrifices for the Gospel and for the sake of others. God will do this but its going to take a lot of learning and relearning. Apart from all the verses that speak directly about becoming a disciple, there are these two verses that I consider key to the discipleship process.
Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)
12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
From transformation to restoration to discipleship to being equipped and commissioned to a life of multiplication.
Discipleship makes you a follower of Christ and a servant, equipping prepares you for a life a spiritual productivity. Learning to be a good and faithful servant. Learning to use your super powers (spiritual gifts). This you learn through the mentoring and coaching of your spiritual leaders. The bibles says that God Himself put “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers… for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry. All of this requires changes, many of these changes are hard to make. Changes that we would not make in ourselves but God requires it. Beware of “change blockers”. A mentality that I don’t need change. Rationalizing why I don’t really need to make any changes (others are worse, christians aren’t perfect just forgiven, God loves me just as I am). Sometimes we determine the changes we want to make instead of letting God make he changes He wants to make in us.
Chapter Two : The God of change
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)
18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
This is Gods work in all of us. First salvation, then sanctification then Christlikeness. Its a lifelong process. It’s one of the seasons in the ongoing cycle of spiritual seasons. We go through these seasons again and again. Seasons of testing, Seasons of warfare and victory, seasons of blessings and abundance and seasons of change. (for more about seasons read “God of my seasons”) The key to mastering your seasons is to walk with God in the season, to embrace the season, to have the discernment and wisdom to know what is expected from you in each season. There is an expected response to the work of God in each season. Seasons are not random, they are loaded with purpose. Here in this book you will learn about your season of change. The purpose of the season and how to bring God glory and see Gods intended purpose fulfilled in your life.
On the potters wheel
It’s a process. You will go through it time after time in a lifetime. It might feel like you’re going to die, It might feel like God is mad at you. He’s closer to you than He has ever been. As a matter of fact His hands are all over you.
Jeremiah 18 (NLT)
18 The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, 2 “Go down to the potter’s shop, and I will speak to you there.” 3 So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. 4 But the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped, so he crushed it into a lump of clay again and started over.
5 Then the Lord gave me this message: 6 “O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.
Did you see the part where it said “He crushed it?” We don’t change easy. We resist change. God will reason with us even plead with us for the changes that must come about in us. Our flesh fights against God. We make excuses, we rationalize we minimize, we blame, we deny that we need change. But deep inside, the child of God knows well. Change must come. If we are going to become Christ-like, if we are going to be fruitful, change must come. And so “He crushes us”. He puts us on the wheel. It seems like we are not getting anywhere. It feels like everyone else and even life itself is passing us by. When He is working on us on the wheel, He is not concerned about our comfort, our earthly progress or our success. Think about the years that were “waisted” as David fled from King Saul. Living in caves, running, hiding. But were they wasted? No way, David was on the wheel. God was crushing Him. There were things in Him as there are in each of us, things that have to change if God is going to entrust us with greater things.
Interesting that “the jar he was making did not turn out as he had hoped” Did God fail, couldn’t He have made it right the first time? God placed limitations on himself when he created us with a freewill. Incredible isn’t it? He wants to save everyone but he can’t. There is no failure on Gods part, He can only work in us as we allow Him to. In Revelations 3:20 He says “behold I stand at the door and knock and if any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him…” We must open the door, we must respond with faith to the message of salvation. We must yield ourselves to Him as He works in us so that He can better work through us. The greater our yielding the deeper the change. And the shorter our time on the wheel! We have to thank God for His long-suffering toward us. He knows that we cannot endure this process of change all at once so throughout our lifetime He places us on the wheel, He crushes us and then remakes us again and again. A little at a time He transforms us into the image of His dear son.
Romans 8:28 (AMP)
28 And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose 29 For those whom He foreknew [and loved and chose beforehand], He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son [and ultimately share in His complete sanctification], so that He would be the firstborn [the most beloved and honored] among many believers.
We are called according to His plan and purpose. You know all those things we pray for, all the things we dream of and long for? Those come from Gods generous goodness. But all of the things that we hold dear, are not as important to God as they are to us. Our comfort, safety and security? Our houses and lands and earthly possessions? Read Hebrews 11. We kind of skip over this part or read it as if it was fictional.
Hebrews 11:32-38 (NKJV)
32 And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: 33 who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. 35 Women received their dead raised to life again.
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted,[a] were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
Notice the shift in verse 35. We are ok with the kind of faith that stops the mouth of lions but we cannot understand the kind of faith that endures torture, imprisonment, wandering destitute and afflicted. And we especially struggle with the part that says “not accepting deliverance! All we can do is shake our heads in unbelief. So where is the God of prosperity and comfort? Oh He’s alive and well. You see Him throughout scripture. But even those who were extremely blessed were extremely tested. Even the most courageous and valiant, the most successful and powerful could not escape the wheel of change. Even Daniel had his lions den, David had his caves, Elijah had his juniper tree, Abraham had his delay, Moses, well just to say not one of us would want to have to endure all that Moses endured. Peter had his rooster, Paul had his thorn, Timothy had his ulcers. You will not escape the wheel, the crushing. The question is how much change will God be able to make in you and how long will it take?
God wants to change your heart.
He will conform your heart into the the image or reflection of the heart of Christ. A heart of love and compassion. A heart of mercy and forgiveness.
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
God puts great importance on the transformation of your heart. It’s the first thing He does when you’re saved and probably the last thing He will do in your life.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 (NKJV)
26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
When we come to Christ He gives us a new heart. This is the Bible verse that God used to reach me. This is the verse that filled my heart with faith so that I knew that God could change me. I was a drug addict, criminal, full of hate, bitterness, shame and anger. My heart was dark and hard as stone. He took out the heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh! (dropped the mic). Done bam, in an instant. Old heart out new heart in! Wow! But it doesn’t take long before we start allowing “things” or “sins” to creep back in and wherever they take root, hardness begins to develop. Soon we have hard spots in our heart. So God doesn’t just go in and deal with the hard spots, He crushes our heart and makes it all new again. No bandaids, no patches, a renewed heart. Back on the potters wheel. Back into a season of change.
You see our heart is the center of our love and what we love most is what we worship. Thats why the “Love of money is the root of all evil” because if you love money you worship it. God will not take second place in our hearts. God will not be our third love, not even our second love. He demands to be our first love. He demands that we love Him with all our hearts. If we love Him with all our hearts there is nothing left for anyone else. Thats why He says that to be His disciples we must hate mother, father, brother, sister and even our own lives. The love He requires is an unmatchable love. Anything less is not good enough. God will change your heart. He will test our hearts then He will change our hearts.
You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress.
When your heart is right then He will also test your mind.
Oh, let the wickedness of the wicked come to an end, But establish the just; For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds.
When He finds things that are not right, not pleasing to him, He changes you.
Revelation 2:3-5 (NKJV)
3 and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. 4 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lamp stand from its place—unless you repent.
Here is a church that has done it all and done it all right. You can have perseverance and patience, but if God is not your first love you need to repent, or else! Knowing this, we need to search ourselves daily. We need to know for sure that no other love has somehow slipped into Gods place. To not love God first, fully and passionately is to have fallen. I’ve thought about the “first works”. The very first works. It was not ministry it was not bible knowledge, it wasn’t missions. Our very first love was God Himself! Him. His presence. The fellowship of His Spirit. Hearing His voice. Living close to Him. Walking with Him. Sometimes we lose focus. We get so busy doing the work of the Lord that we neglect the Lord of the work. We so love being around the people of God that we neglect the God of the people.
Moses was the kind of man that sought the Lord. He had a heart for God. You can know the acts of God and not really know God. Sometimes children of God continue to learn and learn more about God but do not grow in their relationship with Him.
Psalm 103:7 (NKJV)
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel.
So every time He puts us on the potters wheel He is going to work on our hearts. His hands are hands that break and restore, Renew and transform. This is the part about God that we cannot understand. We thing, how can God allow this? How can God do this? Why would He?
Hosea 6:1-3 (KJV)
6 Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
Why would He tear and smite? Its part of the process of change. It’s the only way.
God wants to change your mind
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
There it is again. Conformed into the image of His Son. So we must “let” this mind be in us. We must yield to the transforming power and process of God to give us the same mind as Christ. Though He was God He didn’t fight for His right to be God. Sometimes we fight for our rights to be first and best. It happened in Johns day, it happened to a supposedly mature christian leader. I found it there in third John
9 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not.
Diotrephes would not receive the apostle John! It really went to his head, whatever “it” was. Maybe he was looked at as the pastor or maybe he handled the finances. Or maybe he was a great worship leader or maybe a board member with a lot of influence and a forceful personality. He had very possible in my opinion, usurped a position of leadership? Whatever it was it went to his head to the degree that he dared to reject the great apostle. Maybe he started out good but ended up here. Look at what he did.
10 Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
He was in control of the church. He did not have the mind of Christ. He had rights, he had worked, maybe even used his house for ministry. Nobody was going to be greater than him, not even John. But look at what the mind of Christ looks like.
Philippians 2King James Version (KJV)
2 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Likeminded, of one accord, of one mind, lowliness of mind, esteem others better, look on the things of others before your own things…. No wonder why we have to go back to the wheel again and again. I want the mind of Christ. I want to be conformed. I accept the process.
The mind of Christ is a mind of Humility. It’s your self concept and self worth. While it’s true that many have a poor self concept and a very low sense of self worth. There are yet many more who have an elevated sense of self worth. A sense that they are better, greater, more important than anyone else. The world has affirmed this by teaching us that we should always put ourselves first. You have to think of number one. The Jesus mentality is completely opposed to this view. Jesus put us first, He left it all and gave it all for us. He bestowed upon us great value.
The mind of Christ is also a servant mentality. Jesus said that He had not come to be served but to serve. When He washed the disciples feet He told them that they should follow His example and wash one another feet. The bible tells us repeatedly that we should serve one another. Learning to serve is learned on the potters wheel. Its a process of change. It’s the John the baptist process, I must decrease so that He might increase. Less of me and more of Christ. Until Paul was able to say “Its no long I that live but Christ that lives in me”.
God wants to change your behavior
It starts with a changed heart it continues with a changed mind but the process is not complete until we see the change in our behavior. It will be a new habit, a new lifestyle, a more Christlike character. It will show up mostly in our relationships and especially in our relationships with those who are closest to us! When we go to the wheel, the winepress, the crushing, the extracting of the substance. The fruit of the Spirit. This is the end product. The fruit of the Spirit is the essence of Christ manifest in our relationships. The fruit of the Spirit is not really about how we feel but how we make others feel, how we relate to others, how well we serve others. If you cannot have good relationships you don’t have the fruit of the Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
The fruit of the Spirit is the fruit of the process of the Spirit in our lives. It’s the final outcome. It’s produced on the wheel. It’s produced through the process. It only happens as we yield to Him in the process.
Love, does not come easy, it does not come naturally. I mean real love not philo love, not eros love but agape love. The love that does all the rest. The love that yields to God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. To have the fruit of the Spirit you have to have the love of the Spirt. Real love, committed love, a love that trusts, that believes all things. To have the love of God you have to love God. This is the beginning of the process, from love flows all the rest.
Joy! Beyond happiness or excitement. Joy that makes you strong. Joy that increases your faith, joy that demonstrates faith. Joy that encourages, joy that serves, joy that sacrifices.
Peace. Peace with everyone. Not constant conflict but mercy and forgiveness.
Long-suffering otherwise known as patience. This is not just patience in yourself but patience with others. Not criticism, not anger, not putting others down but putting up with others. Love covers a multitude of sins. You can overlook others faults as well and as easily as you overlook your own faults.
Gentleness, goodness, faith in others. People need someone to believe in them, to believe in their dream and in their destiny.
Meekness. Honestly this doesn’t come easy, this doesn’t come overnight. This only comes through the process. This only comes on the wheel, this only comes when we yield to the transforming hands of the potter.
And last but not least… Temperance, its when all these things become your behavior, they become who you are, not just sometimes but all the time. Not just with the people at church but with the people at home and everywhere.
But take another look at the last verse
24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
This is where it happens, on the wheel, on the cross. It’s where we crucify the flesh by yielding to the work of God in our lives.
Chapter Three - Yielding
You’ve probably heard the saying “Let go and let God”? There’s a story that I heard years ago. Its one of those stories that stays with you for a lifetime. It’s about a man who fell off a cliff but managed to get a hold of a branch on the way down, there he was hanging from the branch and calling out to God. “Is there anyone up there that can help me” he cried out loud. He was shocked to hear a voice from heaven that said “This is God, let go of the branch” to which the man replied; “is there anybody else up there that I can talk to”. Yielding to God means trusting God. It means letting go. We have to yield our rights, yield our expectations, our dreams and hopes, whatever God asks us to let go of. It doesn’t matter that Gods process doesn’t make sense to you. “Lord if you would have been here Lazarus wouldn’t have died’ it didn’t make sense to Martha and Mary. “Lord don’t you care that we perish?” Its didn’t make sense to the twelve on the boat in the storm. “God remove this thorn” Paul prayed three times. It didn’t make sense the first time or the second time he prayed. Why isn’t God answering my prayer? It didn’t make sense to Peter when the rooster crowed or to David when he was fleeing for his life from king Saul. It especially didn’t make sense to the three Hebrew men when they were being cast into the fiery furnace. But somehow they all survived the wheel. They did it by yielding themselves to the will of God and to the hand of God.
Our first reaction when God puts us on the wheel and begins to change us is to resist. Its the natural response. We by nature fight back when it hurts. I recently went through some medical procedures that were very painful but I didn’t punch out the doctor. I felt like it sometimes but instead I yielded myself into the hands of the doctor. I knew that he was working on me to make me better. Is God any less caring than a doctor? The only difference is that God is working foremost on the inner man, the eternal, the spiritual. He if conforming us, molding us into the image of His son.
The key is to yield! Surrender, capitulate (cease to resist), submit, relent, admit defeat, backdown, give in, give up the struggle, lay down ones arms, raise the white flag.. I think we get the picture.
The bible says to submit to God and resist the devil and he will flee. Sometimes we want to resist God and submit to the devil. The devil and the flesh offers us comfort, fun, entertainment, an easy life. But its all a facade, its a lie. The end result will be futility and eternal loss. Gods way, the narrow, the difficult way brings true satisfaction.
5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; 6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
The process is for our profit, it increases our holiness and yields the fruit of righteousness. God is training us. To train means teach a particular skill or type of behavior through practice and instruction over a period of time. God is going to work it through until it becomes a behavior. But notice verse 11 “no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful”! Change is painful but without it we will never be more like Jesus.
Yielding to God, doing the will of God, Submitting to God, following Him, Walking with Him even through the valle of the shadow of death. Its hard to accept pain and suffering as the will of God. We somehow have the idea that Gods job is to keep us happy, to give us a trouble free life, to exempt us from loss. He does all of that in accordance with His own divine plan. But His plan is first of all to shape us in the image of His Son. To make us like Jesus.
The people of Israel would not yield to God. They would not allow the changes. They never let God get Egypt out of their hearts. They could not for forth years have a mind to conquer, to believe. So many of Gods children do the same thing. They come to Christ but do not yield to the changes, to the transformation. Christianity becomes a patch on their lives instead of a whole new creation. They believe in Christ, they learn about Christ, they sing about Christ but they never become like Christ. God is not going to stop. If you are a true child of God, He will put you on the wheel as many times as necessary and keep you there for as long as necessary. You might as well yield to Him, work with Him, let Him do what He wants to do. Confess your faults, cry out for change.
When you are in your season of change you have to yield to the process and surrender to God. Our mind and our flesh will want to resist. We will long for the comfort of the known, the familiar. Often we will find ourselves fighting God.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Do you see the trust part? “do not lean on your own understanding”. Then what? What about when I can’t understand why. Its easy to draw my own conclusions which could be completely false. So when you don’t understand you surrender. Surrender your right to understand everything.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
There is a time when you just have to be still. God is requiring it. God is shaping you. God is working things beyond your comprehension. You might feel like running but God says “be still”
Embracing the process and the God of the process
It’s not enough to comply. We have to come into agreement with God. This is what it means to submit. Not because we feel like it, not because we fully understand it but because God is God and Jesus is our Lord. This is what it