Away with the Leaves

grow in grace

I was finally able to clean my flower beds in the back of my home. I knew all the dried up leaves that had collected were probably covering some of my flowers.  Sure enough, as I carefully removed them I could see several new sprouts were struggling to grow.  Now that they are receiving the sunlight they are already shooting up and will be blossoming soon as other ones are.

We can’t “blossom” as Christians if we have “dried leaves” preventing our growth.  We need to do some spring cleaning and ask God to help us remove anything that is hindering our growth and preventing our lives from blossoming for the Lord.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  To Him be glory, both now and for ever.  II Pet. 3:18

I’m sure God doesn’t want to look at us and see nothing but leaves.

It’s Our Story, Too

salvation

Do you have a story of salvation to share? You might think,  “Oh, my story is nothing or not as exciting as ________is.”  It doesn’t matter if you lived with the most hatred in you heart and evil deeds towards your fellow man or you seem to be a pretty good person; God says, “all our righteousness is as filthy rags,” Isa. 64:6; and “There is none righteous, no not one” Rom. 3:10.  We are all the same.  That’s why we ALL need Jesus.  Everyone need to be saved and is saved in the same way, “For by grace are you saved through faith and that not of yourself.  It is a gift of God.  ”  Eph. 2:8.

None of our stories compare to that of the demoniac in Luke 8:26-39.  Yet, I want to do just that–compare him to us!

What was his life like when we find him?

He was filled with demons, naked, bound with chains and shackles and hiding among the tombs.  He was a slave to Satan and sin.

What was our life like before Christ?

We were bound by Satan’s chains and held in the grip of sin and the world, trying to hide from God.  But, oh, wait; we are naked before Him.  He knows all about us, all about our sin.

What happened when he met Jesus?

The  demons were cast out (they entered a herd of swine and drowned in a lake). He was no longer in bondage.  His life is new, he is clothed (not naked), he is in his right mind, He is sitting at the feet of Jesus no longer in chains and shackles.

What happened when we “met” Jesus?

Our sins were forgiven  (we are no longer in bondage, God remembers our sins no more, they are cast in the deepest sea!)  We were clothed in garments of righteousness, we now have the mind of Christ, and we sit at His feet as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Him through His word.

So, as this demoniac was healed (lit. saved), we,too, are saved and as he returned to his home and proclaimed to the whole city all that Jesus had done for him, shouldn’t we also do the same after all He has done for us?

I don’t know about you, but I will ever look at this story in the same way because IT’S OUR STORY, TOO.

 

 

So Much to Enjoy

birdbath

Don’t you love to watch the birds as they come to your feeders or take a bath in your bird bath?  Now that spring is here I have a wider variety of birds enjoying my feeders, and bath. Each one is so special, so different in size and color, mannerism, songs they sing.  Such enjoyment from such little creations of God.

Psalm 8 talks about the heaven being the work of God’s fingers, the angels, and the creation of man being a little lower than the angels.  Then it mentions the beasts of the field, the fowl of the air and the fish of the sea (all part of His creation).  The first and last verse of this chapter begins with the same words,

“O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth” (vs.  1, 9)

Our Creator, God, deserves to be praised and thanked for all He has created.  And remember, He knew you when you were fashioned in the womb.  You are His special creation.  Although He loves all He created, He loves man so much He gave His son to die for us (for our sins) so we can be with Him for eternity if we receive Him as our Savior.  Have you done this? It’s never too late–only until it IS too late!

He has created so much for us to enjoy in this life–I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for us in the next. How about you?

Give Me This Mountain

Faith is He

One of my favorite characters in the Bible is Caleb.  He, along with Joshua, were 2 of 12 men sent to spy out the “Promised Land.”  You know the result – the other 10 convinced the Israelites they could never take the land – too many giants, etc.  Because of their lack of faith, they wandered 40 years in the wilderness.

Fast forward – they crossed the Jordan River, made conquest after conquest and the land was divided to the 12 tribes.  Caleb had one request for his inheritance.  It was where the Aakims dwelt and where the cities were great and fenced.  Hebron was part of it (see Josh. 14:7-14).  Caleb’s words:  “Give me this mountain.”  He was then 85 years old and wasn’t about to quit.  There was an enemy to be conquered; a land to be enjoyed and he knew with the Lord by his side  he would drive them out (which he did).

No matter our age, we all have mountains to conquer.  The exciting thing is God is the One who will give us the victory.  We don’t have to battle it alone.  We need to remember that God’s name (Elohim) means the strong, faithful One.

“Faithful is He that calleth you who also will do it.”  I Thess. 5:24

There’s an enemy to be conquered, a land to be enjoyed!  Aren’t you glad you are His child?

 

Someone Needs a Friend

a friend loves

Most of you have probably seen the advertisement on TV of people who have a skin disorder and they are saying, “See me!  See me!” They don’t want people just to see their condition, but see them for who they are.

I believe there are a lot of people crying out the same words, only for different reasons.  They may look perfectly fine on the outside, but on the inside they are torn apart and hurting and just want someone to ‘see them’ — to realize they are in need of love, of comfort, of reassurance, of encouragement, of hope, of friendship, and much more.

We are often a “self-absorbed” people,  and we need to become more sensitive to other’s needs.  Jesus certainly is our example.  Though we can’t bring healing and comfort as He did, we can certainly help others to trust Him to do just that in their lives.  And we can be friends that stick closer than a brother.  We can show them love in a variety of ways.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  Prov. 17:17

“A man that has friends must show himself   friendly; and there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” Prov. 18:24

Is there someone you need to befriend today?

Never Stop Learning

learning

No matter how much we think we know about the Lord and the Bible, there is always more to learn.  After reading a familiar story in the Bible and then the commentary on it in my ESV study Bible, I found something I hadn’t thought of before.

The story:  Jesus healing the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-31).  (Before I go on, tuck these next 5 words away that Jesus spoke to His disciples before the story – “DO YOU NOT YET UNDERSTAND?”).

So, the story:  Jesus took the blind man outside the city; perhaps because Jesus not only wanted the man away from any elements of unbelief and hostility, but also because He wanted His disciples to understand more fully who He is.  Little by little their sight would be opened to more truth.

Jesus spit and laid His hands on the blind man and asked, “Do you see anything?”  The answer: “I see people, but they look like trees walking.” (hmmm, seems strange, but remember Jesus is also teaching His disciples something).  Jesus laid His hands on his eyes again, and as he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.

Right after this, Jesus questioned His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And then the important question:  “But who do you say that I am?”  Peter answered for the group, “You are the Christ.”  Though they finally came to realize He is the Messiah they were looking for, they did not fully understand that the Messiah must die and be raised again.  That would come as Jesus continued to teach them.  For now, they saw Jesus as the God man walking with them, who they hoped would liberate them from Roman rule.  Oh, there was so much more!  Their sight and understanding would be opened in time.

We don’t always understand everything that we hear and read, but take heart; the Holy Spirit, as our teacher, will open our eyes and heart to the truth if we ask Him.

For now – how about you?  Do you not yet understand?  Who do you say Jesus is?  This is where it needs to begin.  He is the Savior – He lived, died for our sins, rose again in victory over sin and the grave.  Have you trusted Him as your Savior? Let Jesus open your eyes.

If you have, don’t stop there – keep learning and growing.  THERE IS SO MUCH MORE!

Diamonds in the Snow

The scene outside my dining room window last week after the snow fall was beautiful.  Of course most of us are tired of the cold and the storms, but I couldn’t help just being thankful for God’s beautiful creation and the thought of His pure holiness.

We, so often complain and are discontent with situations in our lives and we miss seeing God’s blessings that are all around us.  The glistening ice crystals covering the snow were an added blessing as they looked like diamonds sparkling in the sunshine.

So, in spite of the winds and storms in our lives, let’s look for our “diamonds in the snow!”  And remember, the blessings are only beginning in this lifetime.  Just think what lies ahead in eternity – how beautiful heaven must be!  And as the snow reminds us that  God is pure and holy, remember He also calls us to be the same.

“Be ye holy, for I am holy.”  I Pet. 1:16 

I want to live a holy life, and rather than complaining, be looking for those diamonds, don’t you?

 

 

 

 

The Finish Line

I have fought a good fight

The goal – to finish well!  I’ve heard my pastor, Pastor Donald Shirk, preach on this before and how true it is.  While watching the indoor track championship at Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA this past weekend, I was again reminded of this.

The 5 K race was thrilling to watch.  In both the men’s and the women’s race, the leaders never lost their position and were able to cross the finish line well ahead of the rest of the runners.  But each of the following runners continued to the finish line; some as much as a whole lap or more behind.  They didn’t quit and say, “What’s the use? I’ve already lost, I’m just not as good as they are.”

You know what?  There’s always someone who can do things better than we can.  That doesn’t make us a failure or a loser.  No matter what, you keep on keeping on!  You are special in God’s eyes.  He doesn’t make you and me like anyone else.  All He asks is for us to be faithful and to keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ so we will finish well.

“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”  Heb. 12;12:2a

If we do that, it can be said of us:

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”                                                                          II Tim. 4:7a

 

The Little Things

I will praise You

How can I say thanks for the things you have done for me?

Things so undeserved, yet you give to prove your love to me.

The voices of a million angels could not express my gratitude.

We love it when God answers “big” prayer requests or sends great blessings, don’t we?  But I never cease to be amazed at how God cares about the little things in our lives and send blessings in such unexpected ways.  Many would say it’s just coincidental, but not in my book.

During my trip out to California this past week God blessed in so many ways. From snow storms clearing out of the area, making our third flight connection with 2 minutes to spare, being able to purchase tickets for an Alcatraz tour (the last 2  for the day), being near a tent which provided shelter when a terrible rain, wind, hail, and thunder storm arose before going on the tour, having that storm clear to make possible the tour, making connections “on time” after my GPS took us straight through heavy traffic in down town San Francisco, and getting us back home to Buffalo as more snow fell.  Beside that, the blessings of meeting people,  having conversations of the Lord and sharing at the book event what God has done in my life I believe were all directed by the  Lord and now the results are all in His hands.  I’m thankful for the experience He gave me, and for blessings undeserved.

“I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.”  Psalm 9:1,2

 

The Ebenezer Stone

why arre you cast down

What causes you to be “cast down” the most or are you presently “cast down?”  Psalm 43:5 asks us this question:

“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” (ESV)

Perhaps the winter weather can make us feel this way; but chances are there are some other things going on in our lives that seem to take us down into the pits.  I’ve found, through some reading, something I’d like to pass on to you.

In I Sam. chapter 7, the Israelites were facing another attack from  the Philistines.  They asked Samuel (the prophet and priest) to pray and ask the Lord to help them.  God answered with victory for the Israelites.  Samuel then took a stone and set it up, “calling the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Up to now the Lord has helped us.” (vs. 12).  We don’t hear that name very often – mostly in the movie with Ebenezer Scrooge; but the meaning of the name is so different from what is depicted in the film.  It means “the Stone of Help,” or “God’s faithful stone.”  The Israelites realized that as God had helped them in the past, He would continue to help them; which is exactly what God did.

Now, let’s go back to my original question from scripture: “Why are you cast down, O my soul?”  Is there any reason we should feel like that?  The next part of the verse (Ps. 43:5b) says, “Hope in God.”  When things seem impossible, God is the God of the impossible. Our hope and help is in Him.  He will answer in  His time and way just as He has at other times in your life.

The following is a quote from George Mueller:

“For I shall yet praise Him.”  More prayer, more exercise of faith, more patient waiting, and the result will be blessing, abundant blessing. Thus I have found it many hundreds of times, therefore I continually say to myself, “Hope thou in God.”

So, whatever may have you cast down, remember the Ebenezer Stone” – As God has helped you up to this point, so He will continue to help you.  There’s no need to be “cast down!”

What a wonderful hope we have.