Press, follow… persecute?

 

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How is your “press” going? Are you “pressing?” I’m not talking about removing a wrinkle in your shirt—I’m talking about checking for a possible wrinkle in your life.

The Greek word for press is more often translated as “persecute” (24 times–the only thing I can figure is, if you are going to persecute someone, it says something about your dedication to a cause!), but it is also translated as “follow” or “follow after” ten times. (I’ll list some of those verses at the end. I thought they were very helpful. Comparing scripture with scripture is one of the best ways to study the Bible and gain a deeper understanding of its meaning.)

Philippian 3: 14 is the only place which translates the word as “press,” and the illustration which Paul is alluding to is that of a runner pushing himself towards the finish line. I’m not a long distance runner (unless you consider running to the mailbox 50 feet away as a long distance!) but I would think that the most difficult part of the race is the middle where you cannot see any signs of the finish line, and isn’t that where we spend most of our time?

people doing marathon

Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

So, that makes me throw out another question: Can you see the prize? According to Paul, the prize is not just crossing the finish line but a “high calling” or the race itself. Winning the race is not just a single moment of completion but the culmination of hours of running and training!  Commentator Albert Barnes puts it this way:

 

God has called us to great and noble efforts; to a career of true honour and glory; to the obtainment of a bright and imperishable crown. It is a calling which is “high,” or upward—that is, which tends to the skies. The calling of the Christian is from heaven, and to heaven. Compare Proverbs 15:24 (The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath), He has been summoned by God, through the gospel of the Lord Jesus, to secure the crown. It is placed before and above him in heaven. It may be his, if he will not faint or tire, or look backward. It demands his highest efforts, and it is worth all the exertions which a mortal can make even in the longest life. (emphasis added)

We all need to be “pressing,” diligently seeking to finish well. I’m not sure how that translates for you today. It may mean not hurling angry words at a clerk or fellow driver or thinking the worst of someone who chooses not to do what you think they should. OUCH! Or perhaps for you, dear mommy, it means showing patience to those little gems who are driving you crazy!! (Showing them patience does not mean letting them have their way, but guiding them in the right way with a right heart.)

Each of us has a race to run, and every born-again believer’s race should include a local church. OUCH AGAIN! (I’d better stop all the toe-stomping or no one will read my posts!) Seriously though, there are shut-ins, doctors, and other occupations that just cannot be in church on a Sunday morning but too often, we make all kinds of excuses for missing out on the best part of the week! Here’s the last question:

Can you honestly say that you are running your Christian race well and not be involved (concerned, occupied, implicated, immersed, enmeshed, entangled, aboard, participating, on the team, with us, on our side—all synonyms!) in your church? A very famous preacher said this:

Today thousands of local churches are dying because of Christians who are unwilling to serve. They sit on the sidelines as spectators, and the body suffers. God calls you to a service far beyond anything you could ever imagine. He created you for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for you to do (Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.). Whenever you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God.

I can certainly “Amen” that statement! Do you need to follow the Nike motto and “Just Do It?”

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Philippians 3:13-15

Here are some of the verses that use theGreek διώκω (diōkō) translated as “follow after:”

Rom 14:19 Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. (This verse actually had the Greek word in it twice.  I’m not a Greek scholar, but it looked as though you would say, “Let us, followers, therefore follow…”)

1Co 14:1 Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.

Phl 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after,  that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

1Ti 6:11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

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LOVE My Garden!

0721181019a.jpgThis has been the perfect growing year—good amount of rain and hot days. As you can see, I pack A LOT in my little garden. It’s enough to give us fresh cucumbers, beans, tomatoes, lettuce and snap peas for our dinner. I’ll purchase tomatoes to make into sauce, tomato soup (new “original” recipe last year and delicious! If you want it, just ask), and salsa—another tried and true recipe.

I find myself looking out my kitchen window, admiring the straight weed-free rows and healthy plants. It brings me such joy! I guess the saying is true: you can take the girl off the farm but not the farm out of the girl! I must admit a bit of pride in my heart as well, which is really dumb because…

  • God makes the seeds grow
  • God allowed me to grow up in a farming/gardening family to gain gardening knowledge
  • God gives me the strength to weed the garden
  • God even allowed someone to invent the Liquid Fence that keeps the critters out!

So, my pride needs to be all about Him—my gracious, glorious heavenly Father! As I am writing, I’m watching the yellow finch at the feeder which makes me think of the children’s song:

God sees the little sparrow fall it meets His tender view

If God so loved the little sparrow, I know He loves me too!

What a thought! He sees me, but even more than that, His heart is tender towards me. He protects me, leads me, strengthens me, and feeds me with His Holy Manna—the Word of God. He cares for ME! WOW!

When I look at my garden and experience the joy and satisfaction of a job well done, I think as well of God’s view of me.  Is He pleased? Am I growing straight and tall? Does He see that the little seeds of conviction are sprouting and bringing forth fruit in my heart? Am I “weed-free?” Am I tilled up and pliable in His hands? Am I bringing forth fruit for His kingdom and glory?

My husband loves to see a tree in the middle of a field where it can grow freely, not all trimmed and chopped because of power lines.  He will say, “That tree is doing exactly what God intended it to do.” That is what I want God to see as well when He looks at my outward life and my inward heart-garden! Oh, the joy to think that I can bring such joy to my Master Gardener!

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. {ungodly: or, wicked} But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psalm 1:1-3

I love conflict!

ID-100122418Just thought I’d get your attention! Seriously though, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone say that they hate conflict when in the midst of a struggle.  It’s often a statement which is actually saying, “I don’t want to get involved.” Who likes conflict? There are certainly people who like to shout their opinions or goad you into a verbal debate, but most of us are not wired that way, or shouldn’t be—especially professing born-again believers!

Conflict. Resolution. How do you get from one to the other? What I have learned…

Scenario:

  1. Party A does or says something that offends, riles, aggravates, disturbs Party B
  2. Party B REACTS by becoming angry, cynical, nasty, rude, quiet
  3. Party A then REACTS against Party B’s reactions. In J. Allan Peterson’s booklet Your Reactions are Showing, he says, “We may at any given moment pride ourselves on right actions and yet be reacting with jealousy, or resentment, or anger, or hatred, or fear or self-pity. To react in one or several of these ways when things do not please us will be very harmful to us.”

Poor reactions are the sand that stops the engine of resolution from working properly. Wrong reactions take the focus away from the real issues and add more conflict. So, before the original problem can be resolved, the reactions must be dealt with. The problem is that the reactions are showing deeper character issues. Peterson explains, “Were a person to watch my actions, he would not really know me. My actions would not reveal to him what I really am, because my actions might be planned and practiced for his benefit. But is it our reactions – our spontaneous, unconscious, unscheduled reactions – that reveal what we really are.” OUCH!!!

If, in the above scenario, all the reactions could be peeled away, the real issue could then be dealt with. It may be as simple as a miscommunication or misunderstanding. Perhaps, Party A didn’t realize how important the issue was to Party B. In a situation where a mom is cleaning out a child’s closet after repeated warnings, she may throw out all the “junk” and feel satisfied with a job well done.  However, when Junior comes home and finds that all his “treasures” are now in the trash, we have a conflict. A wife who makes a purchase that seems extravagant to her husband, a sister who twits her sister about her looks in front of other teens, a teacher who calls down a student for a wrong answer—all these are potential conflicts with added out-of-control reactions depending upon what is in the heart of each person involved.

Solving conflict is a part of every relationship and the methods of resolution are as varied as the people involved in those relationships, but several things are absolutely necessary for any conflict to move into resolution:

  1. LOVEAnd now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13 emphasis added). We quote this verse so often, but do you see what it is saying? Love is greater than faith?! How can that be? Love is greater than hope?! I want to “chew” on that a little more, but I’ll try to stay focused! The point is that love is the greatest thing, for out of it comes all the other necessary ingredients:
  2. TRUST—stepping out on a limb for the sake of the one you love and giving them the benefit of doubt. It is so crucial in every relationship.
  3. FORGIVENESS—When those ugly words fly and open old wounds, can you forgive? When the only response you can muster is, “How could you?” and the hurt goes to the core of your being, can you forgive? When it happens over and over again, can you forgive?
  4. CONVERSATION—talk, talk, talk! But be sure to keep the law of kindness in your tongue! That is SO hard to do, but it is possible by the grace of God! Sometimes a little space is needed to cool our jets, but when the motor of self-justification has cooled and the reactions are once again under control, talk… and LISTEN—you need both to call it communication.
  5. CHANGE—Conflict happens to teach us to change. “No man or company of men, no power in earth or heaven, can touch that soul which is abiding in Christ, without first passing through Him [God], and receiving the seal of His permission.1” Nothing catches our loving heavenly Father by surprise. Can you accept the conflict as a tool from your Father’s hand to help you to grow in His likeness?

We can learn so much from our Savior and His ultimate conflict on the cross.

  1. He never complained
  2. He went willingly
  3. He was humbled, thinking only of us and making a way to resolve our greatest conflict!

Looking at the cross always puts every conflict of life back into a right perspective!

So, press on, dear reader. Conflict is a part of life. We all hate it, but resolution is so sweet! It is true—making up is almost, ALMOST, worth the fight! 🙂

1The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, Hannah Whithall Smith (p,41)

My Mission Field

 

cogan house viewThis photo is my desktop screen.  I LOVE it! It is also my mission field. You may say, “But where are all the people? What do you have, I ministry to cows?” No, but there are folks in them there parts! God did not call us to the foreign field or to the city.  He called us to a zip code which has about 3,000 spread over approximately 64 square miles. (VERY rough figuring!) That’s not a whole lot of people! But…

  • Are there people who have not trusted Christ as their Savior? YES!
  • Are their families that are broken? YES!
  • Are there families that are searching for the truth? YES!
  • Are there elderly who need to see Jesus? YES!
  • Are there teens who need hope? YES!
  • Are there children who need to hear the Gospel? YES!

What does your mission field look like? Do you have a mission field?  Is there something that God wants you to do? For example…

  • Does the cashier need a friendly word and smile from you? And maybe even a Gospel tract?
  • Does a neighbor need to know that you care?
  • Does a family member need help? Or even a heartfelt Gospel letter?
  • Could you bake a cake for a busy mom or even watch the kids while she goes for groceries?
  • Maybe someone in your church needs a listening ear or an encouraging phone call or a smiley face text.

All of these ideas are little seeds that may someday bring forth fruit! Go! Enjoy the summer! Plant some seeds in YOUR mission field! And maybe, just maybe, the Lord will even allow you to see some sprout!

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Matthew 10:42

Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. John 4:35

 

The Best “CLEAN”

 

downloadThis is not an ad for NORWEX, but I must admit—I’m sold on these cloths, and that’s saying a lot. I’m a hard sell, and when my daughter started selling NORWEX, I thought, “I’ll buy a few things just to help her out.” Well, nearly a year later, I’m still overly amazed!

This morning, as I washed my face with a NORWEX face cloth, I thought once again how amazing this microfiber/silver “baclock” cloth is! Lately, I have felt like I have to wash my face several times a day. We live in NE PA at 1700 ft. elevation. There are times when AC is nice, but for the most part, especially in the spring, the cool evening temperatures make life livable without it. HOWEVER, we’ve been having high temperatures and high humidity and my blood hasn’t thinned out yet. (Is that really what happens? :))  Yesterday, the temperature dropped but we literally lived in a cloud for most of the day. When I went down the mountain I was surprised to see that it was just a cloudy day, but then I noticed that the tops of the mountains—the place where I live—were shrouded in clouds!

CLEAN!  What a nice feeling! The dirt and grim (and glistening, if you know what I mean!) are gone! My skin feels fresh… and super clean!  And, of course, that made me think of my soul.

Not only do we get to enjoy the cleansing power of the cross when our souls are redeemed—made completely spotless in the sight of God because of His Son’s ultimate sacrifice—but we are able to enjoy a deep daily cleansing.  I call it Daily Soul Scrub (DA-P3 = Daily, Alone with Paper, Pen, and Prayer, explained in “Still Waters”).

We sometimes think that a splash of the Word to our souls is enough.  You know: you fling open your Bible, read the first verse you see, and yell, “Done!” The Word of God is alive and it is powerful, but it needs to be applied carefully! Some days, that may be all we can afford, but can you imagine the physical example if that becomes our normal habit? Yikes! Peeyoo! Without sounding too harsh… why do we notice when we need a bath but we don’t notice when our spirits are dirty?

Often, we are tempted to sprinkle the Word into our souls, taking in the little bits of Bible that are splattered within a podcast or radio broadcast. We are blessed to have wonderful resources and I’m all for using them, but DA-P3 is like the first scrub of the day.  It’s alone.  It’s personal. It’s essential!

When our daughter smeared margarine on a mirror and then simply wiped it away with a NORWEX cloth, I was stunned. It was miraculous! (Not really.) But I thought, “This must have been how the Native Americans felt the first time they saw a stick shoot fire and bullets!”

Oh, how miraculous is the Word of God! Trying to cleanse our souls with Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, or the Five Pillars of Islam is like trying to wash my face with a mechanic’s rag. It’s a very useful item to the mechanic, but it belongs in the garage, not the bathroom! Those manmade truths may clean up my life, but they will never be able to remove the sin from my heart! Years ago, I had a wonderful conversation with a Hindu woman. She really knew her religion and her sincerity broke my heart. However, when I asked the question, “What do you do to get rid of sin?” she had no answer even though she admitted that she often pondered the question!

Ah… the best clean! Aren’t you glad that it is free and available to all!!!

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:7-10 (Such powerful truths!)

 

 

 

 

 

Chink in My Armor

chink-in-the-armorIt’s a dreadful thing when Satan finds the chink in our armor. A chink is a place where the armor comes together.  It’s a weak spot for no other reason than necessity. It’s not that the armor is poorly made. Chinks need to be there. We also use that word when referring to a log cabin.  The chinking is the mixture that goes between the logs. If there are any weak spots in the chinking of a log home, the chilling winter wind will whistle its way into the cabin or a varmint may creep in as well.

What is your weak spot? Your “chink?” Where is that place where Satan hurls his fiery darts, trying to destroy you? For me, it’s my children. Our two sons, their wives, and five of our seven grandchildren live over 12 hours away.  I never understood the joy of grandparenting until I became a grandmother.  I love those little ones and just want to spend time with them… but I can’t.  They are too far away.

And what does Satan do? He needles me, tempting me with all sorts of wrong thoughts and foolish reasoning. How slippery the trial he puts before us, decorated to make it look inviting! It reminds me of the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” sitting before the fire licking his wounds. Belle wants to clean the deep scratches but instead, the Beast withdraws and cares for his hurts in his own way. That particular scene is pivotal in their relationship, and as the beast holds out his arm for Belle to clean, she thanks him for saving her life. The cleansing hurts but her tender touch and kind remarks start to heal the Beast internally as well as externally.

So, once again I return to my “normal”—facetime and phone calls. The “decorated path” that Satan puts before me borders on bitterness. I want to “lick my wounds” and have a pity party! But instead, I surrender my desires for the Lord’s will and trust Him to do what is best! That’s not easy but it provides peace in my soul and healing where the fiery darts have wounded. Going my own way—demanding my own way—will never bring lasting peace.  It may relieve the present pain, like the Beast licking his wounds, but I’m looking for eternal rest, not temporary relief!

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3: 5,6

Only Trust Him

Come, every soul by sin oppressed,
there’s mercy with the Lord,
and He will surely give you rest
by trusting in His word.

Refrain:
Only trust Him, only trust Him,
only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you.
He will save you now.

For Jesus shed His precious blood
rich blessings to bestow;
plunge now into the crimson flood
that washes white as snow.

 Yes, Jesus is the truth, the way,
that leads you into rest;
believe in Him without delay,
and you are fully blest.

Come, then, and join this holy band,
and on to glory go,
to dwell in that celestial land
where joys immortal flow.

Only trust Him, only trust Him,
only trust Him now;
He will save you, He will save you.
He will save you now.

~ John Stockton

 

My Poor Little Zinnias!

zinniasI decided to start zinnias from seed this year. Yesterday, I transplanted them.  I was amazed at the length of their little roots! They had sent them down as far as their shallow soil would allow them to go and then made a sharp right and started crawling along the bottom of the tray! So, I scooped them out and transplanted them into their own little pots; and this is how they look this morning…

Poor little fellas! I wonder if this is how the disciples felt this morning! It’s Saturday—the wonderful once-a-year Passover celebration culminates today! They should be excited, but you see, Jesus had uprooted them out of their comfortable, several millennia of traditions, and they didn’t even know it until this past week. Even though He told them what was going to happen, their eyes and ears and hearts were blinded to understanding His purpose.

Had my little zinnias known what was coming, they might have hunkered down and said, “No! We’re fine here! We’re not moving.” But if they could have done that, they would have eventually died. They would never have produced any flowers. They would have looked pathetic.

Do you ever feel like that?  God has pulled you up by the roots out of your comfy, cozy spot and put you into unfamiliar surroundings.  They seem harsh and unforgiving. You just want to lie down and die!  But wait! There’s something nice about this new place. Mmmm! My toesies have so much room!  I can stretch way down! And this new soil is really nice. I think I’ll just reach my little leaves towards the sun and GROW!  I’m so glad this happened!

Can we say, “I’m so glad this happened,” when life falls apart?  Better yet, can we say, “I’m so glad God did this?”

I would say most of us do not remember what happened on November 5th, 2017. If I mention Sutherland Springs, Texas, some of us might recall the infamous event. That day, 26 people who went to church to worship God, praising His name with their families and friends. But God had other plans.

How do we cope with something like that?  How do we grow through what would seem to be a dry and barren land? Here are some thoughts:

  1. We fall back on what we know: God is ALWAYS good. This step is so foundational to any further steps we take. Anything less will lead us down the wrong path. “ And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day” ( Deuteronomy 6:24).
  2. We draw closer to God and learn of Him. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Titus, James, Peter… these men experienced firsthand the almighty power of God! They have so much to tell us, and since it is really God’s Word and not theirs, it is a well so deep, it will never run dry! ” Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
  3. We gather strength from others: This is why a network of believers is so important. (Recommended: flesh and blood. Social media is great but it can’t give hugs!) We go to the huddle known as church and we learn and weep and pray, drawing strength from each other. “…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
  4. We take one step at a time. One of my favorite pictures is of the Guardian Angel,41 portraying an angel watching over two small children while they cross a torrential stream via a very rickety bridge. Just like those children, we walk “circumspectly,” testing each toehold to be sure it will hold, avoiding the pitfalls of pity, anger, bitterness, doubts, fears… the list is endless! (BTW, those are all “fiery darts” and you know who is hurling them!)

The apostles would never be the same. In fact, this dark, distressing week was only the beginning. It would pale in comparison to the testings and trials that were coming their way. BUT, Sunday made all the difference!  Jesus’ resurrection changed them, forged them into great heroes of the faith! Oh, to think that our trials as well are designed to kill us… so that we too can truly live!

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20