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

 

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Struggling with the New Normal

Well, this month marks the year-date of our son and his family’s move to South Dakota, 1,200 miles away. It’s our new normal. Several other “new normals” have found their way into my life. I don’t like them either, but what do you do when you can’t change circumstances that you don’t like?

We have several options. We can allow those issues to darken our days and live in misery. Sometimes, that just happens—it can’t be helped. But when misery decides to stay indefinitely, you now have another new normal that is unacceptable! We need to move on… but how?

Generally, there are five steps to the grieving process, and we can apply these to other situations as well as to the loss of a loved one: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. When our son moved so far away, a part of me died—the part that enjoyed seeing them often and at every holiday. It’s dead—not going to happen. The new normal is seeing them once a year at best. So, what do I do?

  • DENIAL: I lived in denial. It sounded like this: “Well, maybe this is just temporary. Maybe they’ll move back.”
  • ANGER: Sadly, I found myself unkindly barking at my dear husband for odd reasons. Somehow, it was his fault.
  • BARGAINING: I can see how the world would do this, but it didn’t make sense to me. Bargain with whom?
  • DEPRESSION: Yep.
  • ACCEPTANCE: Getting there… very slowly!

I don’t know how the world handles grief or deals with unlikeable circumstances, but for me, there’s only one place to go—the One who handed me these new normals! He allowed me to deny the situations for a while because He is kind and good and loving. He knows my weaknesses. But the anger had to go—it is sin to take your anger out on anyone for any reason! Besides, who wants to live like that? What a way to ruin any relationship you are in! Let’s make everyone around us miserable too!

Can we bargain with God? I suppose we can speak the words but it’s fruitless. He sets up “if—then” statements in His Word, but those are promises, not bargains!  And depression… it’s inevitable at times. Depression is a natural part of life, but like anger, we can’t camp there long. It’s a dangerous place to be. Depression allows Satan to whisper all sorts of nasties into our mind like, “This isn’t fair. God isn’t fair. If God really cared for you, He’d change things. He can do that! He’s just being mean. You deserve better.” On and on it goes until you yell, “STOP!” Remember the source of those thoughts! Once you take action to stop Satan’s flow of lies, it’s time to remember: remember past victories, past joys. Go to God’s Word and read about our wonderful Savior! Read the Psalms. They are such a sweet balm for a rankled soul!

Look at these:

2 Samuel 22: 31 As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.

32 For who is God, save the LORD? and who is a rock, save our God?

33 God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect.

34 He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet: and setteth me upon my high places.

35 He teacheth my hands to war; so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.

36 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great.

Psalm 28: 7 The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth; and with my song will I praise him.

8 The LORD is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed.

Psalm 37: 4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Psalm 40: 17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.

Psalm 54: 4 ¶ Behold, God is mine helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul.

Psalm 116: 6 The LORD preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

Psalm 118: 8 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.

(And just in case you didn’t get it…)9 It is better to trust in the LORD than to put          confidence in princes.

Isaiah 41: 10 ¶ Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Hebrews 13: 6 So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

I could go on and on, but I’ll leave that to you! Go and feast on the mighty, precious promises of God!

My superhero

55407d754bd0ca45bd8fc499d37f2aefHe may not leap from the tallest buildings or wear spandex and a cape, but he is MY superhero! He spends his days battling enemies on every front, from without and within, and never complains. At times, I believe if I could see them, I’d see a whole host of demonic beasties flapping and snarling at his heels.

But never mind, he faithfully studies the Word and serves a banquet of fresh, sweet manna every Sunday to the few who choose to take the time to come to God’s house. The crowd may wax and wane, but it never affects his dedication, because he is answering to the high calling of Jesus Christ.

His broad shoulders carry the burdens of others with compassion and prayer. Oh, the sweet, sweet sound of hearing him talk with his heavenly Father, weeping over his little flock—it brings tears to my eyes every time I tiptoe by his office door and hear that lovely sound!

But for me, the most wonderful attribute about my superhero, which makes him greater than the hulkiest of the bunch, is his humble, teachable heart. It’s what first drew me to him, and what continues to affect my life. His patience with me, as I try to become more like our Savior, challenges me to get the lead out and get busy hacking off those nasty, ungodly traits which shatter the precious, heavenly atmosphere of our home. He’s changing, and it makes me want to change too.  After all, who doesn’t want to be like her superhero? 🙂

Last weekend, we watched two of our grandsons. I love them dearly, but I wouldn’t have survived if it hadn’t been for my superhero. He played, and bathed, and walked, and talked with them (and flew a kite, which was captured for Facebook).  He made them laugh and was just plain silly, which is a wonderful, albeit unusual, trait for a superhero. He read to them, and while I was caring for them (I mostly just sat around eating bonbons) or was busy making a meal, he was quietly picking up or throwing in a load of laundry because that’s what he does!

My superhero.  Right now, (it’s four A.M.) he’s sleeping. His weary body, especially those broken parts which remind him that a storm is coming, is resting for another couple hours. Then he’ll rise once more, chipper and ready to face another day’s host of villains: the world, the flesh, and the devil! We’ll face them together, and then they won’t seem quite so impossible. Discouragement flees, but that one usually takes both of us to battle. Criticism is reflected off the shield of faith. Worries fly with a flick of the Sword. It’s really a wonderful life, living with a superhero! I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

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

Philippians  3:14

God’s Footprint

ID-100144966 (1).jpgWe often use the word “footprint” to describe the area over which something occurs or is effective, e.g. the area where a signal from a communications satellite can be received.  So, how big is God’s footprint?  Some folks just believe that He started this whole ordeal called “life on planet earth” and then went on His way.  If so, then does God have any real effect on my life? I’m so thankful for the godly influences I have had right from the start.  One of my earliest song memories is this:

God sees the little sparrow fall, it meets His tender view;

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

He loves me too, He loves me too, I know He loves me too.

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

And that song is based on scripture, which makes it a doctrinally sound little ditty!

Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing?

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

That is so amazing! How many sparrows fall to the ground in just one day? He sees them all, and God sees me.  He knows when I need a good price on peanut butter.  He sends His angels ahead of me when I’m driving. (My daughter just drove three hours alone to take photos of a wedding, and had stopped at a rest area for just a moment.  Further down the road, a car was pulled over and had just hit a deer. Her comment, that it could have been her if she had not stopped, is exactly right!)

And if songs and live testimonies aren’t enough, look at Proverbs 16:

  • The preparations of the heart in man,
  • and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD. (v. 1)
  • A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. (v. 9)
  • he lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD. (v. 33)

Of course, there are dozens of verses which say the same thing, but here are just four examples in one Proverb!

  How big is God’s footprint in your life?

Do you allow Him to affect every part? Do you ask Him to direct your steps? Guard your heart? Guide your words? Some may say that’s a crutch, but I believe it’s the smartest thing we can do as children of God.  After all, if your toddler was heading for the road, wouldn’t you stop him? You see the danger that he doesn’t see, and you gladly intervene even though he doesn’t ask you to! Oh, how big our God is! He is our infinitely all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, good and gracious heavenly Father; He sees the beginning and end of YOUR life, and every step in between! Why would anyone ever choose to have his or her own way?

Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established. Proverb 16:3

 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool:

where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? 

Isaiah 66:1

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The Saddest Verse in the Bible or Who Goes to Hell?

ID-100170122 Matthew 7:23:

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

 This is not only the saddest verse in the Bible, but it is also the most frightening verse as well. As a point of reference, this chapter is part of what we call “The Sermon on the Mount.” Many had gathered there beside the sea to hear the Master, and Jesus talks about a lot of things: The Beatitudes, This Little Light of Mine, how to do relationships, how to worship, how to pray.  Chapter seven begins with “judge not” and includes the lesson on the mote and beam, and ends with the Wise Man Builds His House Upon a Rock, but sandwiched in between these two familiar passages  are these two verses:

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (22)

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.(23)

  • Who is saying this? Jesus
  • Where? By the Sea of Galilee
  • To Whom? His disciples and many of his followers AND TO US!
  • How did they react:

And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.(28,29)

I have to admit, when I first read this passage, I was shocked for two reasons: One, because the message was so strong, and two, I had never heard it before in my church, even though I was a regular attender and really paid attention. Think about it: have you ever heard your pastor preach on this verse?  Has he ever read it as part of the weekly New Testament reading? If the answer is “yes,” then you are blessed to be in a church that preaches the whole council of God; however, if the answer is “no,” you may ask yourself or your pastor why.

And here’s the real question: Who goes to hell? According to this verse, a person can be a pastor (prophesied refers to preaching the Word), an exorcist, or a person who does really amazing things in Jesus’ name! Jesus is not talking about a C&E Christian—someone who only comes to church on Christmas and Easter. He’s talking about a person who is really plugged in to “religion.”

Does that frighten you? Does it make you wonder about your own spiritual state?  It should, and that’s probably why Jesus said it.  He was talking to many really religious people.  They would make the average twenty-first-century church attender look like a heathen.  They knew how to “do God,” but something was missing.  When Jesus says, “I never knew you,” He’s not saying that He doesn’t know this person. He knows everyone and is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”2(Peter 3:9) He’s saying that this person is not His intimate friend. It’s someone who is busy about God but misses the whole relationship idea.

This is a real “heart-check” passage.  Don’t look to the other guy who seems to fit the bill, in your estimation: he’s all show and no heart.  He may indeed fall into this eternally fatal category.  But what about you? You say you’re a Christian, but is there any fruit to prove it?  You say things like, “I’m good, me and God, we have an understanding.” Yikes! Are you sure? I hope the understanding falls under God’s requirements, and indeed, He has requirements!

I suppose the real question can only be answered by you and God. Are you real? Is your love for Christ unfeigned, or is He just tacked on at the end of the day, like the idol worshipper who just wants to add Jesus to his god shelf.  Jesus won’t do that. You must tear down the god shelf (which, in our day can take the form of success, wealth, pride, sports, career, houses and lands… all those things that place such harsh demands all our time and attention!).  Only Jesus.  Jesus first. Jesus is All the World to Me…

Do you know Him?  Does He know you? If you have trusted Him as your Savior, your life will show it.  Others will know, you will know, and Jesus will know!  What a wonderful, peaceful place to be!

BUT, if this post causes you to question, perhaps it is God’s Holy Spirit knocking on your door. Get the answers you need. Salvation is available to all who will speak the truth in their heart. (You may need to check out What is Salvation?)

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Not Me!

easter5.jpg (344×221)Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. Matthew 26: 33-35

Are you ever as astonished as Peter was? Does it shock you how quickly you can deny Jesus?

Never!  That’s what Peter was saying.  Can you see the shock on his face? “I don’t believe it. Lord, you are wrong!  I would never do that!”

Peter trusted in himself. He thought he knew himself better than Jesus knew him.

Does your sin catch you by surprise? Have you been in Peter’s place?  Maybe you didn’t deny that you knew Jesus, but you were certainly not proclaiming Him from the rooftops either. Or perhaps, you did something that you never thought you would do.

When do I deny Jesus? When I argue with His will.  When I complain about my circumstances. When I crumble like dried out dirt beneath the wheel of peer pressure. Oh yes, peer pressure isn’t just a teen thing!

But I would never… You fill in the blank, and then take a moment on this holy day—the day Jesus instituted a new covenant with his disciples–to examine yourself honestly. Nothing makes the day go better, nothing helps your walk with Jesus, nothing feels so good as a heart scrubbed clean by the Word of God!. Speak the truth in your heart, and when you do fall, know that Jesus already knew that you would and is the first to offer a hand to help you up again!

Oh, to walk worthy of our Lord!

Only to be what He wants me to be,
Every moment of every day,
Yielded completely to Jesus alone
Every step of this pilgrim way.
Just to be clay in the Potter’s hands,
Ready to do what His will demands
Only to be what He wants me to be,
Every moment of every day,

Norman J. Clayton

Perhaps you would enjoy reading Peter’s story: I Know Not the Man

 

Death—the great preserver!

This might sound like an oxymoronic statement, but let me explain.  Think about JFK.  What do you picture? A man in his eighties or a man in his prime?  That youthful face will always be remembered because of his untimely death. Even our Savior is never pictured as an older man because His substitutionary death took place while He was in His thirties. Sort of an unusual thought, but there is a lesson to be had.

Death—the great preserver.  During this time preceding the death and resurrection of our Lord, we may do activities which help us to better understand and appreciate the gift given to us because of Jesus’ great sacrifice. Some will reenact His brutal death, walking down the Via Dolorosa, carrying a cross; but even so, can we ever truly understand the whole meaning of His death?  Can we truly understand that His death is our great preserver?

Because He died, we live.  It’s that simple, and yet so complex! One of the most profound verses in the Bible is Isaiah 53: 10:

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin

The sin-debt needed to be paid, and all the blood of lambs or bulls could never pay it!  They simply served as a reminder to the sinner that one day, the Lamb of God would come and be that sacrifice which would satisfy the debt we owed to God for our sin.

Recently, I heard some disturbing news concerning Ronald Reagan, Jr.. He is a long-time atheist, and in a commercial,he openly states that he’s not afraid to burn in hell. How sad. I wonder how many burning buildings he has run into to prove his statement? He will not be preserved, no matter who his father is or how nice a person he is. Jesus’ blood has not been applied to his account; therefore, what he does not fear will happen, or the Bible is not true. He will burn forever, experience eternal death in the lake of fire.

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelations 20:14,15

These words were not written to scare or harass anyone, but to warn. Consider this: if a man brutally raped and then savagely murdered your child, would you want him to walk free? Suppose he didn’t believe in our courts of law. Does that exempt him from the law?  How much more then are we guilty before a holy God because our very nature is sinful.  Have you ever noticed that we do not work to teach our children to do bad things but good? We sin because we are born as sinners, and whether we want to admit it or not, sin is our biggest problem!

I’m so thankful that my soul is forever preserved because of the death of Jesus Christ on a cruel Roman cross.  I’m thankful that we serve a merciful God who saw our need and willingly sacrificed his own Son for our sakes!  I praise Him for a new heaven, a new earth, and a home in heaven!

May this Resurrection season find you resting in the fact that you saw your need for a Savior and called out to Him to save you, or may this be a precious time for you to also be “resurrected” as you trust the only One who can save you: Jesus Christ!  The Preserver of Life is waiting for you!

And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 2Timothy 4:18

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: John 1:12