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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Why Go to Church…

Well, how did you make out yesterday: Sunday? Did you make it to church, Sunday School, PM service? Life is full of choices, and those choices shape who we are and what we believe about ourselves, others, and God.

Choices:

  • I went to church vs. I did not go to church

That decision may have been made for you: the kids were sick, you were traveling, you had to work.  Or, you made a choice: a child had a music practice or ball practice, you needed to do laundry, shop, you stayed up too late Saturday night and were too tired, you just didn’t feel like going.

I am a pastor’s wife, so I probably see things from a slightly different perspective!  Church is what we do.  It is our lives; however, I can honestly say that before we were in the ministry, that was also true, AND that’s probably why God called us into the ministry. Duh!  That is a fairly recent revelation for me! I realize not everyone thinks that way.

  • Why is going to church so hard?

The world makes it hard because the god of this world knows how important it is.  The world sees Sunday as just another day to fill up with activities.  They even fail to recognize it as the first day of the week, placing it at the end of the calendar week.As Americans, especially if you’re old enough to remember the Blue Laws, we have this Christian attitude woven into the very fiber of our culture which colors our thinking; however, the rest of the world scratches their head and looks incredulous, saying, “Really? What’s the big deal?”

Our flesh makes it difficult, especially if we are prone to allow our flesh to have its way! We stay up too late on Saturday night, we grumble about having to put on more than our sweats or jeans, and we find that Sundays become a battleground for everyone in the family as sleepy teens grumble and younger siblings join the bandwagon!

Our adversary, the Devil pulls out all the stops on Sunday.  (By the way, did you know that’s an organ term: pulling out all the stops?  If you’ve ever seen a pipe organ, those white knobs are called stops, and when you pull one out, it opens another set of pipes, adding to the sound.  Pull them all out, and you’ve got a really BIG sound! 🙂 )Satan can only do what we allow, but when we make foolish choices about Sunday, he’s right there cheering us on!

Is it worth all the effort?  Quite frankly, I don’t understand how a born-again believer can live without going to church.Did you know that when you are NOT in church, you are missed? Imagine the church as a body.  We’ll call him George.  This week, George is missing an eye, next week a leg, and then one week, he has no arms and only one leg! Sounds funny, but that’s exactly what it feels like, especially to those who have prayed for you to come, and you didn’t show up.

Why come to church? There are lots of reasons.  I’ll just list a few:

  1. God commands it:  Hebrews 10:25 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.
  2. We need to worship our God to keep life in the right perspective!
  3. We need to be fed and challenged by the Word.
  4. We need each other:  Hebrew 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
  5. We are giving our children an example to follow which will either encourage them or destroy them!

SNathan's anniversary breakfast.jpgometimes, we throw the baby out with the bathwater! We don’t come to church because there are too many hypocrites, or we know we have a wrong spirit, or the preacher is too long winded, they don’t sing the songs I like, the seats aren’t comfortable, or… But if we would just take a moment and think about the Keeper of the House and His heart, all the problems and excuses seem fairly human.

God gives us 365 days every year, and 366 once and a while! Can’t we give Him 52?
One of my favorite TV shows is “Blue Blood,” and one of the most amazing parts of the series is that the family gets together every Sunday for dinner. Wow!  How many extended familes do that?  Yes, this probably means more to me because the move to South Dakota is now a reality. There were several years when all my children, their spouses, and all my grandchildren worshiped together every week!  I remember looking across the pew and telling myself that it wouldn’t always be true.  I can honestly say that I truly enjoyed every Sunday we had together; but that’s done now, and I’ve come to realize that every Sunday is special.  Each gathering is special, and I don’t want to miss even one!  Will you take the challenge?

Bow the Knee

Mocking_of_Jesus

Bowing the knee before Jesus may conjure up in your mind one of several images of someone in the Bible; and if you Google the phrase, you’d be surprised at what comes up! Perhaps blind Bartimaeus, or the woman with an issue of blood, or the disciples came to your mind–certainly, they are just a few that physically bowed and worshiped our Lord.

Mark 15:19 says that they bowed the knee and worshiped Him–a beautiful picture until we read the beginning of the verse: Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him;and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him. 

When we see the whole picture, our heart aches.

Mocking_of_JesusAs we approach the most important date on the Christian calendar, it would be good for us to pause and reflect.  How long has it been since I literally bowed my knee to Jesus?  How often do I get on my knees and confess my sins to my Savior, for that IS truly an act of worship? When was the last time that I spent a “sweet hour of prayer” with Him–the One who suffered so much for me?

Do I come into His house to truly worship?  Where is my heart?  Is it on the crowd?  Am I thinking more about what I’m wearing or what someone else is wearing than on worshiping Jesus?  And did I really even think about what to wear as I came to His house of prayer to worship the “High King of Heaven?”  I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus?

As I read Mark fifteen this morning, my heart was broken, because I realize how often my heart is not worshipful. Webster defines worship as:

  1. the act of showing respect and love for a god especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god : the act of worshiping God or a god
  2. excessive admiration for someone

Respect, love, prayer, believing, and excessive admiration.  Those all take time and thought, and so often that is what is missing from our worship. Just a few more questions which I need to ask and answer in my heart:

RESPECT: How do I show respect to my God and Savior as I approach Him?  Amazingly, He WANTS us to approach Him, to know Him (John 17:3).  Admiration, deference, esteem, reverence, veneration,  and high opinion are all synonyms for respect. So, perhaps the question would be: Is my worship thoughtful and focused on God?

LOVE: Love is a choice, act of the will. That may sound heartless in light of the world’s definition and expressions of love, but it lasts and it will be genuine!  I choose to love my Lord, although it was not a hard choice to make!  A lust for blood and a wicked heart drove the Roman soldier to mockingly worship Jesus and bow his knee.  May an overwhelming desperation to express my love and gratitude drive me to my knees in worship!

PRAYER: Working with children teaches me SO much!  Repeatedly, I tell them that even though I am saying the words, God wants all our hearts to be praying together.  That’s a lot for a child to understand.  That’s hard for adults to understand and do!  It takes concentration.  Does your mind wander as the preacher is praying?  Take heart, we all are in that boat!  Continually strive to plug in and take part.  A worship service is not a staged production put together to entertain.  That’s why I have issues with clapping.  When I’ve played an offertory, or sung a special with my heart tuned to worship God, I love hearing a heartfelt “Amen,” which is a statement of agreement, and not applause for performance–I’m not performing, I’m worshiping. Now some may be able to “clap” their praise to God–I just haven’t got there yet! 🙂

BELIEVE:  Mar 9:24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. Oh, how I can relate to this father!  How many of my disappointments, angst, fears, struggles, frustrations are all because of my unbelief?  How much more would my Father do if I only believed?   But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.(22)  Can God or God can?  Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” (23)  I can’t say it any better than that!

EXCESSIVE ADMIRATION: Excessive makes it sound like it’s too much, like too much ketchup or Parmesan cheese!  Can we be too excessive or extravagant in our admiration for the One who suffered even mocking worship for me?  And what would excessive admiration look like? I bet it would fill our churches with ardent worshipers, fill our mouths with constant praise, and overwhelm our hearts with gratitude.  It might even overflow our eyes with tears.

 And when they saw him, they worshiped him: but some doubted.  Matthew 28:19

I wonder have I done my best for Jesus,
Who died upon the cruel tree?
To think of His great sacrifice at Calvary!
I know my Lord expects the best from me.

Refrain:
How many are the lost that I have lifted?
How many are the chained I’ve helped to free?
I wonder, have I done my best for Jesus,
When He has done so much for me?

The hours that I have wasted are so many
The hours I’ve spent for Christ so few;
Because of all my lack of love for Jesus,
I wonder if His heart is breaking too.

I wonder have I cared enough for others,
Or have I let them die alone?
I might have helped a wand’rer to the Saviour,
The seed of precious Life I might have sown.

No longer will I stay within the valley
I’ll climb to mountain heights above;
The world is dying now for want of someone
To tell them of the Saviour’s matchless love.

Lyrics: Ensign Edwin Young
Music: Harry E. Storrs

A Lesson From the Piano Strings

For those of you who know the workings of a piano, you understand that the damper pedal moves the felt dampers off of the strings so that they will ring or vibrate when other strings are being struck by hammers as the pianist plays.  The affect is beautiful; in fact, even the average listener would be able to tell if the pianist was not using the damper pedal.  The sound is flat, dull and lifeless.

As I was thinking about this today, I thought of the wonderful illustration it gives of Psalm 133:

 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;
As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the LORD commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

When a fellowship of believers is united, each one “rings” out the praises of God.  What a beautiful song we make when we are all united in our praise and are “vibrating” or responding as the Word is preached or the choir is singing or someone is giving a testimony!

You know, I believe almost anything would taste good drenched in chocolate!  However, if the strings are coated with anything, they will not be able to vibrate.  What sin is keeping you from “vibrating” in tune to God’s Word?  Do you come to church loaded down with the cares of this world?

ID-1009202When we were at our first ministry, I once told Tom that I was going to place a box by the door of our kitchen where he could deposit all the burdens of the ministry, so that he didn’t carry them into our home and destroy our heavenly atmosphere!  We need to apply the same principle to our times of corporate worship as well as to our private devotional times with God.  Always start each with a time of prayer: praising God, but then confessing our sins and shedding all the debris that’s cluttering our lives.  Then our hearts will be “tuned to sing [His] grace,” and we will be ready to be teachable.

So, next Sunday, come prepared to vibrate!  Come and worship and do your part!

Ps 96:3 Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.