March 16 – Transformation Testimonies – The Thief on the Cross

Read Luke 23:32-43

As long as there is still life, it’s not too late!

There were three men who hung there that day.  Each of them had grown up in his own family.  Each of them was known by others beyond their family…whether by reputation and word of mouth or by personal encounters.  The man in the middle…well, he was different.  He was an innocent man.  Both Pilate and one of the men hanging at his side had recognized that there was no reason for His execution (Lk. 23:4, 14, 41).

But, the other two?  Their story is different.  The gospels don’t give us an full description of them and their past.  We know them only as “criminals” (v. 32).  Matthew describes them as “rebels” (Matt. 27:28, 44 also translated in the NASB as “robbers”).  But whatever their crime(s), one of them admits that the punishment was fitting with the crime.  They had done something worthy of capital punishment (v. 41).  As they hung on either side of this Man whose reputation as a religious man, bitter insults were the only thing that came to mind…for both of them initially (Matt. 27:44).

Thief on crossIf you were a family member or loved one for either of these two men, would you have been in the crowd as the nails were pounded deep and the crosses were swung into their vertical positions?  Doubtful.  Even if you had come initially, would you have been able to stay till the sad end?  Probably not.  You would likely want to avoid the memory of having that visual image of a last desperate breath drawn.

But you would have missed it!

You would have missed the repentant cry!  You would have missed the extension of grace!  You would have missed the promise of paradise!  You would have missed a smile of peace in the midst of agony!  You would have missed life transformation in the dying moments of a man’s life!

Is there anyone you know that you have written off?  Anyone whose life has seemingly spiraled out of control?  Anyone who, in your mind, will never turn to the Savior and experience life change?  Don’t give up.  Keep reaching out.  Keep offering the gracious forgiveness of Jesus.

As long as there is still life, it’s never too late!

Steve Kern

March 15 – Transformation Testimonies – The Adulterous Woman

Read John 8:1-11

You’ve been caught. Not only were you caught, you were caught in the act. The crime you just committed was worthy of nothing less than death. How would you feel? What would you be thinking? To make matters worse, the people who caught you in the act of sin drag you through the streets, into the center of the city and place you at the feet of God Himself.  Imagine the horror! You are laying at the very feet of God in human form, the God who created both the law that you just broke and the punishment for it. In your mind, Jesus Himself is about to condemn you to death. Are you afraid of death? Because you’re a moment away from seeing it face to face.

John 8 describes this very scene. A woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Pharisees and religious teachers dragged her through the city and into the temple to drop her at the feet of Jesus, asking Him what should be done. “According to the law,“ they said, “such people should be stoned. What say you?” Here Jesus is, the just creator of the law they are trying to pin on Him. At the same time, He is the merciful God that wants all people to be saved. What would you say?

As you prop yourself up at the feet of Jesus, He bends down right in front of you and writes in the dirt with His finger. Confused, the accusers gather around you to see what was being written. Jesus calmly says to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her”. He then bends down and writes something again. You turn around to see the faces of your accusers change from rage and pride to shock and embarrassment as they, one by one, turn around and leave the temple. When everyone had left, Jesus stands you up and tells you that He doesn’t condemn you of your sins, but forgives you!

To note is that God did not fail to call out the woman’s sin, “Go and sin no more.” Instead of death being the punishment for sin, there was now forgiveness through Jesus. As humans, we continue to sin every day. Jesus came so that, in spite of our sins, we can receive forgiveness for them, repent and enter into eternal life with Him. Living a transformed life is knowing that your sins are forgiven and you can live eternally with God.

Jake Lawson

March 14 – Transformation Testimonies – The Roman Centurion

Read Matthew 8:1-17

It wasn’t just a good day for Jesus. It was His life. The humble, compassionate tender-hearted power that Jesus gave to everyone who’d have Him could do nothing less than show itself true through every encounter He directed.

This was a day full of healing. Jesus’ touch. Jesus’ word. No matter the method, He healed people who needed wholeness.

He Himself took our weaknesses and carried our diseases (v17).

The healing, the life-giving — this is why Jesus Christ left heaven’s comfort. He is the very Creator of each person who saw Him, heard Him, followed Him that day. Jesus stepped off His perfect and glorious throne in heaven and onto the broken and hurting earth so He Himself (could take their) weaknesses and carry (their) diseases. So He could take ourweaknesses and heal our diseases.

When the man with that terrible skin disease, who hadn’t been touched in who-knows-how-long, stepped forward and asked, Jesus took away his disease with a tender touch of love-come-down.

And when the Roman soldier, whose servant lay dying as he stood believing, approached Jesus, He Himself carried away the man’s weakness with the breath of His word. Literally. Jesus Christ spoke healing for that man’s servant. And the servant was well.

His transformation went from faith to fullness in the amount of time it took for Jesus to say

Go; let it be done for you as you have believed (v13).

A faith Jesus hadn’t yet seen led Jesus to marvel. And it showed Jesus to be the all-powerful Creator that He is. Healer of the broken. Breath of life.

His was a faith that leads me to marvel at Jesus’ power, the breath of His Word, the power of His being. It cause me to wonder — what does our faith show of Jesus? Does it lead people to marvel at His love and wonder at His power like the Roman centurion?

I hope so.

Bria Wasson

March 13 – Transformation Testimonies – Faithful Paralytic

Read Mark 2:1-13

There is a great difference between people who simply want God to work in their lives and people who work actively to allow God to work in them. When we get complacent in our walk with Christ, we aren’t pursuing His ways. God is still able to move in spite of us, yet we are able to quench the work of the Spirit by our sin and complacency. It appears that God chooses not to work through us because we aren’t actively pursuing His best for our lives.

Such perseverance is found in the second chapter of the gospel of Mark.  A paralyzed man is brought on a bed drawn by his friends to the house in which Jesus is teaching.  Due to the crowds, there was no room to enter into the house to get the man to Jesus. Instead of giving up and leaving, the friends took action, removing the roofing to make a hole right above where Jesus was teaching. They were so confident that Jesus could heal their friend that they were willing to do whatever it took to place him in the presence of Christ.

Jesus, seeing their faith, told the man that his sins were forgiven, and later healed him. How rewarding would that be to see that all your hard work paid off? They had the faith that Jesus could heal their friend and were willing to do anything in their power to make that happen.

The faith that Jesus recognized was not so much that of the paralytic but of the friends who brought him. They expected God to heal their friend and they were very active in making it happen.

God can work the miraculous through something as small as an invitation into His presence. How are you doing inviting your “5”? Something as small as a simple invite can be exactly what they need to have God revolutionize their world.

In our own lives, we may encounter overwhelming circumstances. What are we willing to do about it? Are we going to sit back and expect God to work a miracle in our life or are we going to make the most of the moment and allow God to guide us? If we only show the unstoppable faith, that the paralyzed man’s friends had, we would be surprised to see what God can do in our lives.

Jake Lawson

March 12 – Transformation Testimonies – John the Baptist

Read Matthew 3:1-17

Keys to a “John the Baptist Makeover”

Makeovers are a point of fascination in our culture currently.  Whether it is your personal appearance or the place you live, you can watch television shows and purchase products that will give you a new you or make a new home out of your current one.

But the kind of transformational “makeover” that God wants to bring into your life and mine is often less focused on such externals.  Instead, it is related to such things as character, dependence, and fruitfulness.  In that regard, John the Baptist serves as an incredible example of someone to aspire to be like.  After all, Jesus described him like this:  “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist…”  (Matt. 11:11)

Here are four areas in which I yearn to be more like John:

  1. Additional personal security – John seemed comfortable in his own skin (or at least in camel skin!). He wasn’t afraid to go against the norms in dress or diet (v. 4).  He was a non-conformist, willing to be the person God made him to be.  To be sure, this is a tightrope walk.  But sometimes I cave or even compromise to culture or to the expectations of others.
  2. Greater Christ-honoring humility – John understood that it was his role to point people to someone else, Jesus Christ. He recognized his own unworthiness to baptize Jesus or even touch His sandals (vv. 11, 14).  He wasn’t concerned about building a following, but yearned to have Christ increase while he decreased (Jn. 3:22-30).  I can certainly use a bigger dose of that!
  3. Multiplied ministry fruitfulness – The contrast of verse 1 with verses 5 and 6 is amazing. On the one hand, John was preaching in the wilderness (v. 1).  That sounds like a great place to practice a sermon but not to actually preach it!  But people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan were going to listen and be baptized.  Oh that God would enable me to have a greater impact for His purposes!
  4. Increased truth-proclaiming boldness – John models well a Holy Spirit boldness. He was not afraid to say what needed to be said.  In fact, he even called out the hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees of his day, describing them as a bunch of snakes (v. 7).  Boldness doesn’t always mean name-calling, but I could sure grow in the ease with which I speak the truth in love!

Are any of those four areas where you should pause to pray with me that God would transform you?

Steve Kern

March 11 – Transformation Testimonies – Mary

Read Luke 1:26-51Matthew 12:46-50

It’s sometimes hard to imagine that Mary the mother of Jesus needed Jesus’ saving. But the truth is she needed the amazing grace of Almighty God just as much as you and I do.

I sometimes forget that God’s freely given favor was His doing alone, nothing more than His unmerited gift of grace that not even Mary could earn.

But why did God choose her? we might ask. We could ask the same of ourselves. Why has He chosen any of us to follow Him? To bear His Name? 

Yes, Mary was a sinner who needed the saving grace God would provide through the Son she herself would bear. So when Gabriel told Mary what he had been sent to say, it caught her off guard. Because Mary knew better than anyone just how much she needed that unmerited favor.

Greetings, you who are highly favored! The LORD is with you. (Lk 1:28)

God’s choice in Mary, His pleased favor to birth His Son through her came not because of anything she did or because of who she was. God pursued her with His grace because that is what He does. God Himself declared her highly favored.

His presence went with Mary. He graced her with it. Indeed, Almighty God pursued Mary the mother of Jesus Christ with His grace. And, well, it frightened her.

But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. (Lk 1:29)

Then Jesus stepped in, and Mary was never the same. For when the shepherds showed up having been given the message that the King of kings had arrived in a stable in that tiny town at the bottom of the hill, when Simeon prophesied in the temple courts eight days later, Mary wondered in a different way.

Amazed at what Simeon told her, she and her new husband were amazed. Even when twelve-year-old Jesus ran off without letting his parents know where He was, even after she didn’t understand why He’d worried them so, even then she kept all these things in her heart. (Lk 2:50)

Jesus gave her mind something to treasure. He gave her heart something to keep. For God had arrived in the flesh and she got to be part of it.

Indeed, God with Us, Immanuel changed Mary’s life forever. He changed life forever for you and me too. Have we let His presence, take our deeply troubled thoughts and turn them to treasures?

Bria Wasson

March 10 – Transformation Testimonies – Zechariah

Read Luke 1:5-2357-79

How long had it been since Zechariah had prayed that prayer, begging the Author of Life for a child of his own? How long since he and Elizabeth had fallen asleep in their tears, crying out from their barrenness. How long since he’d prayed for that child, that piece of hope for their personal darkness?

It had been hundreds of years since God had let His voice be heard. Four hundred years since He’d spoken through Malachi to remind His people Israel of their covenant relationship — warning them that He knew their sin, that He saw their sinful ways and would hold them accountable.

No wonder Zechariah had all but given up on His requests for that son. No wonder he doubted when Gabriel revealed the very voice and hand of God Himself as he spoke those words of promise there at the altar.

Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son… (Lk 1:13)

That sacrifice he offered — it symbolized God’s ears. The God who hears would accept the incense offering from His people, even as He spoke to His chosen, the words Zechariah had long wanted to hear.

Your prayer has been heard… (v13)

But Zechariah couldn’t believe it. In fact, before Jesus stepped in all Zechariah had left was doubt that the God who hears and accepts that incense offering had actually heard the cries of his heart.

Then Mary, pregnant with the Son of God in the form of a womb-ridden infant, walked Jesus Christ into Zechariah’s house. And everything changed.

His son John was born and his tongue was loosed and the doubt of Zechariah’s heart was transformed to praise.

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel . . . (v68)

The benediction Zechariah had been expected to give after that day at the altar, but couldn’t because of his tied-up tongue, could finally be delivered. Can you imagine the joy behind that blessing song? What a difference Jesus made even before He was born!

Has Jesus made that kind of difference in your life? When Jesus steps in, doubt falls prey to joy and blessing. We see it with Zechariah. Have we let Him make such a change in us?

Bria Wasson

March 9 – Transformation Testimonies – Nehemiah

Read Nehemiah 4:1-23

The city of Jerusalem was an important piece of real estate.  Its significance was first of all tied to the fact that it represented the capital of the nation of Israel and an epicenter of God’s presence.  He had chosen this as the location for the building of the temple where He manifested Himself in the Holy of Holies.  But Jerusalem was also of great value because it was home to many a Jew.  In light of these precious realities, a wall had been constructed around the city, protecting the people and the temple from enemy attack.

Unfortunately, under Nebuchadnezzar the city and temple had been destroyed and many of God’s people had been taken in exile to Babylon decades before the events you read in Nehemiah 4.

Over time, people were permitted to return to their home land.  Reconstruction work on the temple, the city, and the wall was begun.  But this work was not without opposition.  The truth is, Satan is opposed to anything that God is for.  And in Nehemiah 4, he seems to use the threats of Sanballat, Tobiah, and others to bring discouragement to the work.  At risk were the glory of God and the welfare of His people.  Nehemiah helped the people of God recognize this as he challenged them in verse 14:

“After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, ‘Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.’”

This is a theme verse for a ministry to men called “Fight Club.”  And yet, it serves as a good reminder to all that the glory of God and the welfare of His people is still at risk.  It serves as a rally cry to set aside our passivity in family life.  It prompts God’s people to consider anew the greatness of God in a day when He is marginalized.

Doing so can transform a family!  It can transform a city!

Steve Kern

March 8 – Transformation Testimonies – Esther

Read Esther 4:1-17Esther 7:1-10

There is no doubt that Esther experienced transformation.  She was likely an unsuspecting Jewish teenage girl caught in a transitional time when some Jews had returned from exile to Jerusalem.  But she, with many others, was a subject in the Persian Empire.  At this fragile time in Israel’s history, she was taken off to beauty school, placed in the king’s harem, and looked upon with favor by King Ahasuerus.  That is a transformation that would turn anyone’s world upside down!

And yet, the transformation that captures our attention in today’s reading is much larger than a single life.  Haman, one of the king’s counselors, had developed a plan that would result in the execution of all Jews.  The plan seemed to be fail proof…unless the right person could get a hearing with the king.

Notice these words of challenge from Mordecai, Esther’s relative, in verse 4:14:

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

On the one hand, Mordecai was convinced that the eternal plan of God could not be thwarted.  He understood that God’s people, the Jews, would somehow survive this threat.  After all, centuries before, the Father had promised to Abraham that they would to be a source of blessing to all of the nations (Gen. 12:1-3).  Mordecai knew that, on the one hand, God’s people would not be completely destroyed.  Somehow, He would provide deliverance.  The question was whether Esther was to be a key mouthpiece through which this relief and deliverance would come.

Having read the story, you know that God did use her miraculously.  She was an instrument of transformation for an entire nation.  Praise God!

There are many golden nuggets in this passage.  We can bank on the fact that God’s plans will be accomplished…in every way.  For example, He will build His church (Matt. 16:16).  The question for us is whether we will step forward, break the silence and be part of His incredible plan or passively allow His will to be accomplished through other means?  Will we be a mouthpiece to the “five” in our lives?  Will we serve Him passionately?

Steve Kern

March 7 – Transformation Testimonies – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

Read Daniel 3:1-30

Being used as an instrument for reaching others for Christ is one of the best ways to live a transformed life. How we act and the stance that we take, through experiences we go through, can greatly impact the lives of people and in some cases lead them to Jesus.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were all friends that were taken to Babylon as young boys in the exile of Judah. They proved themselves to be trustworthy and were promoted to leadership positions in the kingdom. The king at that time, Nebuchadnezzar, was a proud man; he erected a large gold statue of himself with the simple command that all people would bow down to it. The three friends, who were devout Jews, chose to not bow down and forsake their God. Nebuchadnezzar, of course, was not pleased with their decision and ordered them to be thrown into a furnace that was heated to seven times the original heat.

These men were about to be killed by fire because they refused to bow down to an idol. In verse 18, however, they stated that even if their God didn’t protect them from the furnace, they would not bow to this idol. They had enough faith in God to give up their lives to make a statement of faith. We find that they were miraculously saved from the furnace, and as a result, king Nebuchadnezzar proclaimed that the Israelite’s God was the most powerful of them all.

With the furnace heating in the background of their proclamation, they stood their ground.  When told to bow, they confidently said, “We will stand.”  We can all look up to how these men stood firm in their faith!

While they were willing to give up their lives, we are called to give up something as well.  It may not be our lives, but we may be called to sacrifice our popularity, our pride, or even our freedom. The ultimate test of a transformed life is the test of enduring faith. When your faith is tested, how will you respond? Will you fall on your face in submission to the thing standing between you and God or will you remain standing and endure whatever this world may throw at you? What are you willing to endure for the sake of the gospel?

Will you remain standing for truth?

Jake Lawson