Success!

Well, for the first time ever, we have grown cantaloupes—just had one tonight for dessert, and it was delicious! I’ve tried before, but they never completely ripened before our sunshine and warm weather gave way to fall. I love living on top of a mountain, but it cuts our growing season by two weeks.  So, what made the difference?

Putting paper down. I had a 4×8 foot sheet of the black stuff left from planting our roses, so I put it in the garden and covered it with straw.  As the vines grew, I added newspaper and stretched out the straw. (The straw was really just for pretty!) I guess it worked because we now have fifteen cantaloupes! Yum! Can I find a spiritual application?  Need you ask?    cantaloupe

  1. Find what works

We have cooler temperatures, about an average of five degrees, than the surrounding lower altitudes; so covering their little roots made all the difference. It retained the moisture and the heat. How is your spiritual growth progressing? Are you faithfully spending time alone with God? Perhaps you have always done your devotions in the morning, but now that is not possible.  Have you always read through the Bible every year?  Perhaps it’s time for a change.  Something that has really helped me is to read through the Bible every other year, and then have a different plan for the alternating year.  For 2016, I’m studying the Gospels using commentaries and the Amplified Study Bible. Just seeing different words has really been helpful. The Bible contains everything we need to live a successful Christian life. Sometimes we just need to dig in and find what works!

  1. Know your situation/circumstances

Everyone is different.  We try to make the Christian walk a one-size-fits-all.  God has placed you into your circumstances and given you your set of difficulties and challenges, as well as blessings, to teach you something. The fifty-year-old woman is facing a totally different set of issues than the thirty-year-old new mom. How wonderful that we can all go to the same Source for strength and wisdom, as well as help each other.  That’s why we have this thing called church!  It’s a place where we can help each other along the way. We can read the same passage, hear the same sermon and each come away completely refreshed, challenged, and blessed because God’s Word is all-powerful! This is NOT situational ethics, but it is applying God’s Word to your situation which may be very different from mine.

  1. Be faithful!

I’ve been tempted to plant grass next year in my garden! It’s so much work and, at times, produces little fruit.  But then the Lord sends a bumper crop of cantaloupes!  Isn’t the same thing true in our Christian race?  At times, it seems all uphill with no end in sight! We’re tired, discouraged, lonely, depressed, frustrated, confused, and just plain worn out! Don’t give up!  Ask God for a little “shower of blessing.” He is SO faithful and He has given us countless promises to claim. Just when we think the race is not worth it, He does something extraordinary. Perhaps it’s just a smile from a stranger, but it’s all we need because we know Who sent it!

 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

 Success to the end. King Ahab is not known for many good things, but this statement is always a challenge to me. When a neighboring king was threatening to annihilate Samaria, this was his response:

 Tell him, Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.

1 Kings 20:11

And don’t forget those famous, encouraging words from our little, blue friend:

Keep on swimming!

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Lincoln’s Greatness

maxresdefaultThis past week, I had the privilege to visit Lincoln’s hometown of Springfield, Illinois. We toured the house and visited his presidential library and museum. I was nearly brought to tears because of the museum’s wonderful portrayal of this great man, who was destined by God to lead our country through some of its darkest hours.

So, what is the secret of his greatness? As I read and listened to several of his speeches, I began to notice a common thread. Here are just five of his most famous speeches:

  1. Peoria, Illinois: October 16, 1854 “If the negro is a man, why then my ancient faith teaches me that `all men are created equal;’ and that there can be no moral right in connection with one man’s making a slave of another.”
  1. Illinois Republican State Convention, Springfield, Illinois:June 16, 1858                  A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Mt. 12:25)
  1. Farewell Address, Springfield, Illinois: February 11, 1861                                         Without the assistance of that Divine Being, who ever attended [George Washington], I cannot succeed. With that assistance, I cannot fail. Trusting in Him, who can go with me, and remain with you and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well. To His care commending you, as I hope in your prayers you will commend me, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
  1. Gettysburg Address, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania: November 19, 1863                             It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
  1. Second Inaugural Address, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.: March 4, 1865 Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other… The Almighty has his own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offences! For it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Mt. 18:7) If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope-fervently do we pray-that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God will that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether.” (Psalm 19:9)

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan – to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Do you see it—all the references to God and all the quotes from the Bible? As I stood in his tomb and read his second inaugural address, just five days before Lee surrendered and ten days before Lincoln was assassinated, I was amazed to see that the entire speech was laced with references to God! I don’t believe the words were added for effect but came from a heart that beat for God and knew the scriptures. Abraham Lincoln never joined a church and didn’t attend regularly (even though his wife Mary did). But he obviously read the Bible and was familiar with its content.

So, what’s my point? You don’t need to be in church on Sunday? Well, sadly, many of you may not be, especially with it being a holiday weekend; however, even sadder still is the thought that there may be a day when there is no church to go to because of today’s lack of interest. No, this post is not about church attendance.

Abraham Lincoln knew the Bible. Do you? Do you read it daily? Do you love it? Is it your guide book? Could you…

  1. Name all the books?
  2. Name five authors?
  3. Quote any verses? How many?
  4. Name twenty heroes of the Bible?
  5. Name twelve tribes of Israel?
  6. Name in order the days of creation?
  7. Name the 10 commandments in order?
  8. Name the 12 apostles?
  9. Recite the Lord’s Prayer or the Twenty-third Psalm?
  10. Use verses to lead someone to Christ?

These are just ten random questions off the top of my head. It’s not knowing the trivial facts about the Bible that will change your life, but knowing the God of the Bible, and if you want to know God… know God’s Word!

The message of the Bible came through loud and clear in his speech—he didn’t just tack  “and God bless America”  on the end. It was his guide, his foundation, his focus, and his Friend. AND, the most amazing part is that it can be the same to anyone who wishes it to be true enough to make it happen! Worried about America? READ THE BIBLE!!

 

Best Moments of the Day!

page28_picture0_1326119104Why do we need to get alone with God?  One reason is to follow Jesus example. We will never totally comprehend Jesus as God while He was here on earth.  We do know that part of His omnipresence and omniscience was overshadowed while He indwelt His earthly body.  Certainly, He could not be everywhere at the same time; neither did He have all knowledge. When asked about His return, Jesus said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matthew 24:36) So, even though Jesus is God, He needed to get alone with His Father, God!

Imagine the setting: Mark 6:14-56 contains the following:

  1. John the Baptist is beheaded (14-29)
  2. A time of rest for Jesus and the disciples (30-33)
  3. Teaching and feeding of the 5,000 (34-44)
  4. Jesus send his disciples and then the people away (45)
  5. Jesus prays alone on a mountain (46)
  6. Jesus walks on water (47-53)
  7. Miracle in Gennesaret (54-56)

Seven scenarios, all concerning the activities and miracles of Jesus… except one.

And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray. Mark 6:46

When we consider all that Jesus had done that day, we can see why He needed some time alone with His Father! Notice that He sent the crowd away.  If we really want to be alone with God, we need to turn off the computer and phones, shut down Facebook, find a quiet place, and meet with God.  If Jesus needed to do that, how much more is it necessary for us?

May I say that there is no power strong enough to battle this world, our own flesh, and the devil than the Word of God.  There is no friend, blogger (including me! :)), or commentator who is compassionate, holy, and wise enough to tell us exactly what we need to hear and give us the comfort we so desperately need, because only Jesus knows our hearts. Ron Hamilton has captured the essence of a devotional time with God in his song, My Quiet Time.  I’ve emphasized all the wonderful benefits for you.

Before I start each day,
there is a special place
I love to go alone
and seek my Savior’s face:
I find wisdom in His Word
to instruct me in His will,
And I hear His gentle voice
say, “My child, be still.”

My quiet time alone
gives me power to obey.
My quiet time alone
with God each day.
I talk to Him in prayer;
ev’ry day He meets me there.
My quiet time alone with God.

He’s with me all the time,
wherever I may go;
Each moment of the day,
He’s always there I know.
But I need that special time
when I bow before His throne,
Just to read His Word
and talk with my Lord alone.

Amazing, isn’t it, that we have access to the God of the Universe!  He’s always there, always ready for us to put down the trinkets of this world, to stop working and running around like fiends, and just be still with our God, Savior, Creator, and King—our Heavenly Father. Take the time.  Make it the most important habit in your life. NOTHING will transform your life like spending time ALONE with God. Then, the words of this old, familiar hymn will become real in your life: and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.
~ Psalm 63:1

My constant prayer for myself, my family, and our congregation is that the Lord would give us a thirst for His Word—that our souls would be continually refreshed with the water of His Word in this dry and thirsty land! Ah, take a long, cool sip!

 

Don’t Forget the Milk!


I have fed you with milk, and not with meat:

for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.

1 Corinthians 3:2

Milk and meat—Paul uses these two food groups to describe different levels of Biblical learning: milk represents the baby steps and meat, the larger lessons which require bigger leaps of faith.

So, what are the milk steps of faith?  Well, obviously, the Christian life begins with the step of salvation, and although it is the first step, it is by no means a small one!  Salvation takes a giant leap away from the world and puts the believer into a whole new world—God’s world!  Yes, this is my Father’s world, but the world system is certainly the devil’s domain!  Salvation puts us on a lifelong path with our Savior, Jesus Christ. But what are the other baby milk steps?  So glad you asked!

Baptism is the next milk-step, and it isn’t for babies!  🙂 Baptism is a beautiful picture of salvation.  When a pastor meets a person of faith in the waters of baptism, that person stands before the congregation demonstrating what Christ did for him on the cross: Jesus died, was buried, and then arose from the dead, hence the need of water!

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:

that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father,

even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:4

Does a person need to be baptized in order to go to heaven?  I hope not, or Jesus lied to the thief on the cross!  You don’t have to be baptized for salvation, just for obedience! …  it’s God’s way, and His way is always best.

Church membership—it’s not a man-made invention; it is God’s plan as well.  Today, the trend is to throw out traditional “organized religion,” and I can understand why as I listen to some of the stories of what goes on in some churches.  However, as the old saying goes: You don’t throw out the basket of apples because of a few rotten ones!  Why be a member of a local, Bible-preaching church? There are lots of reasons: commitment, fellowship, accountability, obedience, but most of all—the love of Jesus Christ.

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is;

but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Hebrews 10:25

Why would believers want to yoke up with God’s children?  Well, they aren’t perfect, but as another saying goes: If you ever find a perfect church, don’t join it or it won’t be perfect anymore! You don’t have to join a church … but it’s God’s way, and His way is always best.

“Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow!”  Milk.  Reading God’s Word is milk.  Talking to God in prayer is milk. They are both basic building blocks to having a successful Christian walk.  So often we try EVERYTHING under the sun to get close to God or to get answers to our problems except the one thing that really works: READ your Bible!!! Get your two best friends—a pen and paper—and dig in to the Bible!  Oh, it’s good stuff!  It’s the stuff heroes are made of.  And talking to God should be as natural as breathing.  The other day, I was putting away dishes and I almost dropped a glass.  The first words from my mouth were, “Thank you, God.”  Does He guide my hands even when drying dishes?  Well, if He sees the sparrow fall, I’d say, “Yes,” and “Praise the Lord!”

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?

and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  Matthew 10:29

You don’t have to read your Bible or pray … but it’s God’s way of communicating with you, and His way is always best.

Don’t forget the milk.  Heaven forbid that a Christian be lactose intolerant!!! A baby Christian is never born that way, but week after week of neglecting the milk can create this horrific situation!  Obedience … you don’t have to be obedient, but it’s God’s way, and His way is always best!

  Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,

as in obeying the voice of the LORD?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

1 Samuel 15:22

Wait Till You Ride the Phoenix

Last week I spent a wonderful day with my daughter, daughter-by-choice, five grandchildren and an “adopted” granddaughter. The children’s ages ranged from four years old down to ten weeks!  What fun!  Blessings upon blessings.  The Lord granted us a gorgeous PA day with low temps and no humidity.  The amusement park wasn’t crowded and we had a blast.

But as I watched the excitement in my grandchildren’s eyes while riding the Helicopters, especially noticing Connor (4) as he discovered that by moving the bar, the thing would go up and down, I thought, “Wait until you can ride the Phoenix.”

The Bible is custom-made to meet our needs no matter where we are in our Christian walk.  It’s full of hidden treasures just waiting to be discovered.  I remember dreading the book of Job until I was going through a difficult time, then Job became my favorite!  John has always been a blessing, but when I really wanted to concentrate on being a better witness, looking at John and learning from Jesus’ example changed my perspective.  Acts came alive as I studied it to teach to our Children’s Bible Club a few years back.  Joseph became my hero when I did a character study of his life.

If you would choose to study one book of the Bible every year, it would take you sixty-six years to do it!  Duh!  I know that’s a pretty dumb statement, but that’s a long time, and our time is limited.

Each decade of our lives contains different challenges. Generally speaking, in our twenties we’re finding a mate, having children and establishing our homes.  Making time for Bible devotions can be difficult as we deal with newlywed drama and diapers. New moms need to snatch a quick tidbit of the Word whenever possible, much like the snippets of sleep she needs to steal just to keep functioning.  The thirties bring toddlers and elementary age children, and the schedule starts getting packed with appointments, ball games, and trips to the park.  If a habit of daily Bible reading has been lost, now’s a good time to pick it up and plan it into your schedule.  The forties, we find ourselves parenting teens, attending sports games and music programs and graduations, and then they’re off to college.  WARNING!  If you are not spending time in the Bible, then your spiritual tank is empty; and there is no time in your life when you will need to be drawing strength and wisdom from God, as much as when you are raising teens! And by the fifties, our nest is empty. What happens when you’ve made your children the center of your life (ooh!  Sounds like a god to me), and now they’re gone?  Oh, find that Friend that will never leave you!  He’s in the Book!  My point? There’s always an excuse NOT to take the time to learn about God, and there’s never a better time to study God’s Word than now!

This summer we’re having a “Five Minute Team” for the children at church.  I’m challenging them to spend five minutes a day reading the Bible, using Patch the Pirate material.

Five minutes out of the one thousand four hundred forty minutes that God gives us every day!

That’s pretty puny! I often tell the children that I didn’t become faithful to my devotions until I took the challenge not to eat until I read my Bible. That worked!

So take the challenge, somewhere within the pages of God’s Book there may be a Phoenix just waiting to be discovered by YOU–a story or a thought or a phrase that you’ve never seen before. And once you “ride” it, you’ll never be the same!

 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! Romans 11:33

 

Spiritual Food Pyrimad

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We’re probably all familiar with the food pyramid and its benefits,  helping us to understand which foods we should eat. But could we use it to see what benefits the Word of God supplies for our spirits?  We find some interesting parallels between eating food and feasting on the Word.

Starting at the bottom of the pyramid, we see that we are to drink eight glasses of water a day. How many of us do that? That’s a LOT of water. If we consider a sixteen hour waking day, then we need to drink a glass of water every two hours! What if we applied the same strategy to the Word of God? Imagine reading or at least thinking about God’s Word every two hours—what an effect that would have on our walk with Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith!

Next, comes the breads and pastas—six servings! Those are the building blocks upon which all the other foods rest. Spiritually, these would be called doctrine. That word may have a negative connotation t you, but it’s simply the teachings of the Bible: fundamental truths like the Deity of Christ, God the Creator, and the Resurrection. Knowing what we believe is absolutely necessary, especially in this day when our core beliefs are being challenged. Do you KNOW what you believe, and are those beliefs grounded in the Word of God?

Next are the much-needed fruits and vegetables, combined to equal five to eight servings. These foods are full of vitamins and minerals which help our bodies to fight against diseases and sickness—a defense against the enemy! And how do we fight off our spiritual enemy? Is it not the fruit of the spirit that really makes Satan run?! Love, joy, peace, longsuffering or patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Be as full of spiritual fruit as you can, and Satan won’t be able to stay in your presence for very long! And have you ever noticed that many “diets” allow as many of these as we want to eat? Same thing, spiritually! Galatians 5:22 ends the listing of spiritual fruits with these words: against such there is no law. In other words, go for it!

Ah, the meat, poultry, fish, etc.– two to three servings. Protein builds our muscles and powers our brain. Brain food! Are you brainwashed with the Word of God?

And dairy—three servings. 1 Peter 2:2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. Calcium, we all know, builds strong bones. Strong bones are the framework on which everything else is hinged! Do you love God’s Word? Do you desire it like a newborn? I was having babies back in the 80s, right between the non-nursing era and before nursing really caught on. I can still see Jennifer, straining her head to nurse because, at that time, the nurses would hold off bringing the babies back to mommy as long as they could, trying to hit the goal of four hours. And, they would give the babies sugar water! Poor little thing!  By the time she came to me, she was desperate for food! Oh, to be that desperate for God’s soul-nourishing Word!

And then the tippy top of the pyramid, the little triangle which tastes SO good and makes all the other foods taste a whole lot better! After all, what’s an ear of corn without butter, or a salad without the dressing? There’s no servings listed, just the word “occasionally.” This is the place for all our favorites—the things we’re constantly trying to limit because of fat and calorie intake. These foods pack on the pounds without adding much nutritional value at all. BEWARE! I hate to say this, but these are the blog posts, and the books, and the radio programs, and the podcasts. They are so good, and I’m not saying they aren’t beneficial, but be careful that they don’t replace reading the Bible. Even notes in our Bibles can make us “fat” and lazy, not taking the time to meditate and think for ourselves.

Eat well! Stay “fed up.” Drink often from the fountain of living water! Your spiritual life is depending on it!

Psalm 19:7-11

 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul:

the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.

The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart:

the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever:

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. 

More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold:

sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them

there is great reward.