Transformative Power

By Julian Wells

“But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.” (Acts 13:30-32 NIV)

An encounter with the resurrected Christ transformed Paul overnight from the chief persecutor of Christ’s followers to his most fervent proclaimer. The reality of the resurrection transformed the disciples from cowering cowards after Jesus’ crucifixion to bold witnesses after he later appeared among them.

Christ’s resurrection was central to Paul’s preaching and is the foundational pillar of our faith in Christ. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul went so far as to say that “if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14 NIV)

As Christians, the resurrection is the source of our hope, the antidote for our grief, the confirmation of the deity of Christ, and the promise of our own resurrection to live eternally with Him and one day be reunited with loved ones who share our faith.

After Paul’s first message in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch from which the lead passage above is taken, Acts 13:44 tells us that “on the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” People respond to the Gospel when it is delivered plainly, purely, and with the Spirit’s power- especially when that message is delivered by someone whose life reveals the kind of transformation that people observed in Paul after his encounter with the resurrected Christ.

Lord, like Paul, I want to experience the transformative power of your resurrection. (Philippians 3:10) May its reality and the promise of my own echo in my writings and resound in my testimony that I may be a more effective witness for you.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9 NIV)

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26 NIV)

Hearing God’s Voice

By Julian Wells

“As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’” (Hebrews 3:15 NIV)

There are a number of ways God speaks to us today, but his primary means of communication is through his written Word. That is why I try to start each day reading the Bible before other earthly distractions clamor for my attention.

But all too often I have been guilty of reading it just to maintain a reading plan without truly digesting what God is saying to me. Doing so results in prejudging the content to align with my preconceived interpretations and inclinations, leaving little room for the Spirit to guide me in a different direction.

We should never be so nonchalant about the best opportunity we have each day to hear the voice of God.

Years ago, after hearing a message by Dr. Charles Stanley on this topic, I recorded in the cover of my Bible ten ways we should read God’s Word to establish the ideal mindset to hear his voice. We must read it:

  1. Eagerly
  2. Attentively
  3. Trustingly
  4. Expectantly
  5. Prayerfully
  6. Patiently
  7. Humbly
  8. Purposefully
  9. Joyfully
  10. Repentantly

Remembering to adopt these postures as I read God’s Word has served me well through the years. When I do so, I rarely fail to hear God’s voice. He shows me things I’ve never noticed before. He feeds me, strengthens me, challenges me, humbles me, and gives me ideas for reflections to share with others.

If your life is too busy to read the Bible this way, then your life is simply too busy. When Christ walked among us, it was clear to all who encountered him that his teaching was unlike any before him, and yet so many missed his glory and majesty. We must not make that same mistake by allowing trivial pursuits to keep us from the awesome privilege of hearing God’s voice through the pages of his Word.

“I must honestly declare my conviction that, since the days of the Reformation, there never has been so much profession of religion without practice, so much talking about God without walking with Him, so much hearing God’s words without doing them.” – J.C. Ryle

Incomparable, Immeasurable, Unimaginable Power

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV)

As one who chooses to bring glory to God through writing, this passage always causes me to pause and reflect upon its implications. I firmly believe that the greatest personal hindrance to effective Christian ministry, whether that be preaching, teaching, writing, or any service to others, is a misplaced faith in ourselves – too much confidence in our own abilities, our own knowledge, our own wisdom, and our own strength. Such resources are miniscule compared to the resources that God stands ready to provide.

The apostle Paul understood this very well, describing in that well-known passage from 2 Corinthians about his “thorn in the flesh” how the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul went on to conclude, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Cor. 12:9 NIV) Paul had discovered that sometimes God has to reveal to us how weak we are, before he can use us for his glory.

In Ephesians 1:19-20 ( NIV), Paul describes God’s power as “incomparably great” and proclaims that it is “like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” How often have you stopped to consider that the same power that raised Christ from the dead is at your disposal? Why would we ever neglect such readily available and limitless divine help – not just for Christian ministry, but for the daily struggles of life?

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Eph. 3:20-21 NIV)

Welcome To Lakeside Reflections

By Julian Wells

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV)

“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs and 16:9 NASB)

Welcome to the first edition of Lakeside Reflections. In 2015 I launched this site as Ridgetop Reflections. At the time, my wife, Patty and I lived in the mountains of Western North Carolina where we witnessed the wondrous beauty of God’s creation from our rear deck facing the Blue Ridge Mountains. Those experiences (especially the sunsets) often left me speechless. But they also inspired me to reflect on God’s wondrous love, his bountiful provisions, and his amazing grace and to share those reflections with others who find their way to this site.

But as Solomon wrote so beautifully in the passage above, “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Then he provided a series of coupled examples, one of which was “a time to plant and a time to uproot.” With clear divine guidance, we determined earlier this year that the time was right for us to uproot. So we traded our mountain home in North Carolina for a lakeside home in the Panhandle of Florida to be closer to our kids and grandkids for however many remaining years God graces us with in this earthly journey.

In a post published in 2016 titled The Paths of Life, I shared a personal story of how God disrupted our retirement plans 20 years ago when he directed us to Denver, Colorado as my last duty station with the Federal Prison System. Just as clearly, God guided us in this decision as well, confirming it in multiple ways- none more clear than the following.

Later in 2016, I published a series of posts titled Lessons From the Cotton Fields. The last post in that series was To The Fields! It remains one of my favorite posts. Central to its narrative was a church I had encountered on a morning walk in Callaway, Florida while visiting our family. A sign out front described it as “The perfect church for imperfect people”.

That church is Northstar Church and it is 35 miles from our current home. Imagine our surprise when we discovered that the parents of Northstar’s senior pastor are now our next door neighbors. On that fateful morning walk over four years ago, the Lord already knew the plan he had for us. (Jeremiah 29:11) We just didn’t know it yet.

While we no longer enjoy those jaw-dropping mountain sunsets shared in so many of my reflections from the ridgetop, the sunrises in the mornings and moonrises in the evenings reflecting off the water here by the lakeside are simply serene and God’s presence is equally as evident.

My hope and prayer is that those of you who found my writings in Ridgetop Reflections worthy of your time will be continue to be enlightened, encouraged, and comforted by Lakeside Reflections.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11 ESV)

Note: If you enjoy my posts, I encourage you follow this site. Instructions should appear on your screen as you scroll down. When you register with your email address, each new post will then appear in your inbox as soon as it is published. You can also find me on Facebook or on Twitter at @jwells1030.

But God

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20)

“David stayed in the desert strongholds and in the hills of the Desert of Ziph. Day after day Saul searched for him, but God did not give David into his hands.” (1 Samuel 23:14)

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the cross and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead.” (Acts 13:29-30)

Did you notice the two-word phrase found in each of these passages? Those two words are rich with hope for times like these. In this week before we celebrate Easter, we are especially drawn to that last passage from the Book of Acts. The enemy thought he was finally victorious in his lifelong opposition against the King of the universe, “but God” raised him from the dead.

The virus that continues to spread across the globe has gripped our world with fear and uncertainty about the future. But God is still perfect in his love. He is still infinite in his wisdom. And God is, and forever will be, sovereign in his control.

No matter what you may face today, those circumstances do not get the final word. Our enemy is a great deceiver, but he does not get the final word. This coronavirus is invisible and deadly, but for those who know our resurrected Savior, it does not get the final word.

Because there is always a “but God” who works in all things “for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV) And he always gets the final word.

Note: All Scripture references from the New International Version (NIV)