Good gifts

Once we began the process of closing on our house, I was thinking about how I wanted to do the landscape. There is a lot of work to do and a lot of plants that I need to purchase so I can get the landscape where I want it. In the back of my mind was many many plants that I wanted to have in my own landscape (like the pink peony that is pictured). I wasn’t really wanting to spend a lot on the landscape right now, because we had some other money goals right now, but I want my landscape perfect right now.

As I have worked on the landscape, I have found many of the plants that I wanted already on the property (peach trees, grapes, rhubarb, peonies, iris’, daffodils, day lilies, forsythia bush, and cool trees. So I have been busy moving plants to better locations. Also, I have had several jobs lately where customers wanted some plants pulled. Amazingly, many of the plants are ones that I was wanting to add to the landscape (four o clocks, liropes, magic carpet and bridal bush spirea, to name a few). Daily, I have been installing plants and bringing new (free) plants home. I still have plants in pots and buckets that is waiting on me to plant.

If you get some down time, come over and I will put you to work.

Through out this process, I have seen how we serve a good God that wants to give us good gifts. Honestly, I don’t remember ever asking for any of these, but God knows my thoughts and desires. Don’t forget to acknowledge God for the little gifts in your own life. All good gifts come down from above.

James 1:17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

True Love

One of the most basic words used for Valentine’s Day is “love”. A simple word; it seems, but unfortunately a very confusing word. After all, look at the many different ways we use it in English. We say, “I love ice cream; I love my girlfriend/ boyfriend/ spouse; I love football; I love my Mother; I love God.” Each of these phrases is a different use of the word “love.”

How do we reach its deepest meaning?
The Bible tells us that God’s love has been poured out upon us (Rom 5:5). While we were yet sinners, God demonstrated how he loved the world by sending His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ loves us so much that He died on the cross to save us from our sins. He first loved us: unconditionally, even if we do not love Him in return. This is the essence of true love: unconditional self-giving. We give ourselves away for the other person, even if it means (and especially when it means) sacrifice and suffering for us. The greatest symbol of love is not the heart; it is the cross!
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
Remember three things:

1) The picture above with the guy dressed like cupid was wrong (funny, but wrong) lol.

2)True love has no conditions. If someone says they love you, but expect something in return. They are not showing true love, but rather selfishness.

3) Jesus showed unconditional love by giving himself for the benefit of others. True love looks out for the other person, not for self.

Waiting

Does anyone out there like waiting? I cannot say that I like it much. It seems like I am always waiting on something. Today I was following an old man who was driving 40 mph in a 55 mph. He would get up to 50 mph, then he would slam on his brakes and drop down to 40 mph and do it again. So I patiently waited for the passing zone (ha-ha), only to have cars coming. This went on for what seemed to be an eternity. Finally, victory, I was able to pass him, only to wait on stop light miles up the road.

Later we went to a big department store to return a broken electronic. When my daughter and I walked in, the return line was a mile long, so we went back to get the replacement electronic. We returned to the return line only to wait forever. Why do people bring stuff back to the store without a receipt or the original tags or box? They had three people working the returns but none of the lines were moving. Conveniently, they had a big clock on the wall so I could see how long that I have been there. Finally, the line began to move. Again, I am looking at the clock figuring three minutes per person. Man at that rate it’s going to at least fifteen minutes. I had waited this long, I did not want that time wasted to be in vein, so I stuck it out. Amazingly, we finally got to leave, and hopefully I will never have to go there again.

You would think that in our society where we can get whatever we want quickly, God would follow that theme. That is not how God works. There is a lot of times that he will have us wait on him. I cannot say that I have it figured out, but I think that sometimes he has us to wait so we are more dependent on him. I think also He does this to show that He is in control. God is not up there wringing His hands wondering if things are going to work out. He is in complete control of our lives and He cares for us. So if you are waiting on God, pursue Him with all of you heart. He will give you the strength to trust Him and to wait for Him.

Isaiah 40:31 Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

Fork in the road

News about Solomon’s wisdom and his kingdom seemed to travel quickly to other countries. It is interesting how Queen Sheba traveled with her army to speak to Solomon, just because she had heard about his kingdom and his wisdom. She came to test him and/or to give him hard riddles to answer. After all of her attempts, she was speechless because he was able to answer all of her questions. Through out her encounter, I am sure that Solomon gave credit to God for his wisdom. This probably brought up more questions about God in general. I might be reading into the story a little, but I would bet that every question she had about God was probably answered. As she left Solomon’s kingdom, she was left at a fork in the road spiritually. Should she accept this God or should she continue down her road of serving her god(s) or maybe no god.

The same should be true with us, as we meet people in our everyday lives, we should be a ‘fork in the road’ to people spiritually. They need to hear about Christ and be left with a decision: “Should I accept Christ or do I reject him”. We need to be ready to give a defense about our faith (see 1 Peter 3:15). I have found that many non-Christians have one or two questions about God that trouble them. Well meaning Christians in their past could not answer these questions for them. Usually, once those questions are answered, man-made walls are knocked down and they are left with a decision, “What do I do with Jesus?” There are some that use these questions as a way to heckle Christians, because they have seen that most can not answer them, but there are some that need that wall knocked down so they are able to believe. So hopefully as we live our lives we can be a “fork in the road”, so people will be left with a choice about Christ: Should I accept him or do I reject him?

How about you. Have you accepted him or rejected him?


1 Corinthians 15:1-6 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep;


1 Peter 3:15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Just as I think I can’t go on

Something that I offered for the teens that I work with is an opportunity to publish on my blog their poems, stories, or how God is working in their lives. I’m not sure if I’ll get that big of a response, but my oldest daughter took me up on that offer. This poem is a beautiful picture of God the Father.

Just as I think I can’t go on
By Brittany

Just as I think I can’t go on,
I remember the one who is strong.
He picks me up when I am weary,
And give me new strength, to think more clearly.
When the troubles come, I will not falter,
For I know that I am His daughter.

Love them Pharisees

In Hosea 6:6, God made a strong statement about his mercy, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.” Really what he was saying here is that he wants us to show kindness toward man, especially to the lowly and needy, which especially need it. Throughout Deuteronomy, it speaks of the love that we should have with God. In the gospels, the Pharisees thought that closeness with God came by keeping ceremonial traditions and their list of rules, but this is not what God wanted. God desires love toward one another. The greatest or chief command is to love God with all our heart and the second greatest is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:37) If one is truly following God, he would love his brothers and not cause them harm. (See Exodus 20, 1 John 3:10–11) Jesus took “love your neighbor” to a new level. He spoke of it as a radical love. He said that we should love the ones who persecute and abuse you for no reason. (Matt 5:4)

In Matthew nine, Jesus gets off a boat and does many miracles. He heals a paralytic, forgives his sins (which only God can do), He shows his omniscience by “knowing the Pharisees thoughts”, and allows a low life tax collector (Matthew) to become one of his disciples. Right in front of the Pharisees, there were many opportunities for them to show God’s love to needy people. Sadly, they were not interested in showing kindness or concern for the needy, but rather concerned about observing their own list of rules.

The big thing that can get me worked up (and causing me not to love) is seeing or hearing about someone who is being legalistic like the Pharisees. Outwardly, the Pharisees seemed to do the right things by following their rules, but in their hearts, they had no desire to serve God. Loving others is hard, but this world needs to see Christ’s love. His love can be seen as we show kindness, care, and concern to individuals who are struggling in this life. As we live our lives, we need to be sensitive to the Spirits leading, because there are many people out in the world who are hurting and who are looking for someone to love them. Sure it is easier to act like a Pharisee, by looking spiritual on the outside, than it is to love one another, but this is the way God chose, “he desires mercy and not sacrifice”.

Harsh Words

Jesus would always seem harsh against the ones that did not want the things of God. The religious rulers took the biggest hit on this. They would show outward holiness by keeping the law, while on the inside of them there was nothing that even desired the things of God.

Jesus would also seem harsh against Israel at times. He would call them an adulterous generation. Adulterous, because they had the Messiah right in front of them, but they did not accept him. They continually sought after other gods, ignoring the one true God who came in the flesh.

The unbelieving crowd was another group that Jesus seemed harsh against. The disciples fell into this group quite a bit of the time. The disciples were with Jesus 24/7, but they would constantly forget what he could do or has done. There were many miracles done just so the disciple could see first hand that Jesus was who he said he was. The feeding of the five thousand was one of these events. Each disciple got a basket of breadcrumbs to carry afterwards for a reminder.

Some might think that it is harsh to mention that there is an actual hell. Hell is a real place. This place is an eternal separation from God. It is a terrible place, because the one that goes there will be in their physical body that can feel pain and worse than that, they will remember the opportunities that they had to be saved from it. No one spoke more about hell than Jesus did. He would mention how there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in darkness. He spoke the most about it, but also he did the most to keep people from going there, by dying on the cross and being resurrected from the grave. He beat sin and death and now provides eternal life to those who believe. Because of what Jesus has done on the cross, eternal spiritual separation from God (i.e. Hell) can now be avoided.

The Lost Keys

I have heard it said that you can tell a man’s stress level by how many keys he has on his key chain. If this theory is correct, then I would rate very high on the stress charts, because I carry two sets of key chains. Since I have run a business, I have keys for my trucks, padlocks, and many many other things. I carry every key that I might need with me always. I do not feel stressed having that many keys, but I did yesterday when I could not find my second set of keys. The stress level started to rise when I was at the auto parts store. This was when I realized that my second set was not with me. Then I started thinking back to the last time that I seen them. Oh no! It has been over four hours since I remembered using them. Within those four hours, I had been to multiple stores in multiple towns, getting in and out of an old truck with rusty floor boards. Those keys could be anywhere. I called home for the search to begin as I started back tracking, trying to follow all of my paths. Unfortunately, they were not found even with all of our efforts. All evening and night, my mind continued to think about where I might have laid them down at. This morning I searched the garage and walked the entire lawn, driveway, and around and in every truck. No luck again. Frustrated, I began untangling an extension cord. As I was walking backwards toward one of my trucks, I heard a jingle. I looked down and there were my missing set of keys. They have been there in plain sight the entire time. How did we miss them? A great sense of relief came over me, as I began letting everyone know that I found my keys.

It is funny how God uses episodes in our lives to remind us of his love and character. I was reminded of the parable of the woman with the lost coin in Luke fifteen. She searched for that missing coin extensively. Lamps were lit and she even swept the floor to be sure to get every corner. At last it was found! She let everyone know about her find and she wanted to share her joy with them. This story mirrors God’s character, as He does not give up on the lost one but pursues him. In the same way, there is great joy when that one comes into a right relationship with Him. What a wonderful joy it is to be in a right relationship with the Creator of the Universe.

Rebel Against Conformity

Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded Judah and basically took everything that he found to be valuable to him. It seemed to be a practice to not only take silver and gold, but to also take young men and women who might be useful to the Babylonian Empire. In this raid, Nebuchadnezzar took some young men that were good looking, well-educated, and had the ability to enter into the kings service. Among these young men were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. For the next three years they were to learn the literature and language of the Babylonians, so they would be able to be in the kings palace. Daniel had already made up his mind before hand not to eat the wonderful royal delicacies that the king assigned for them to eat. Daniel decided this because eating some of this food would have broke the Mosaic law dealing with unclean foods and the drinking of strong drink. Daniel talked with his overseer to see if he could eat only vegetables and drink water, but the overseer was fearful of losing his head. Then Daniel had to speak to the overseers boss for permission and he agreed for them to try that diet for ten days. At the end of the ten days, these four young men looked healthier than the others, so they were allowed to stay on their vegetable diet. Throughout this God’s hand was on these young men, because “in every matter of wisdom and insight the king asked them, he found them to be ten times better than any of the magicians and astrologers that were in his entire empire.” (Dan 1:20)

The text does not say how many young men were taken, but only four are mentioned that remembered their Jewish heritage and did not conform to their new world around them. It seems that they took a bold stand without the worry of “fitting in” or being popular among their peers. They knew that God would be with them and that He would bless them for their obedience to His Word.

If you are a follower of Christ, you must rebel against conformity to this world. Each time we follow the evil ways of this world, we are like silly putty being molded into something other than Christ likeness. I see Daniel here as a bright light shining during a dark time in Judah’s history. He refused to be conformed to the world around him. Be a Daniel, rebel against conformity to this world.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NASB)

Completely Dependent

I was a little leery at first about putting my full trust in Jesus Christ. I thought that God was sadistic, and he was waiting to torture me after I started to follow him. I was afraid that I might be tested like Job was. Now after knowing God, I found out that he is not sadistic, but he sometimes does have his children go through things in life that are anything but pleasant. Following Christ can be scary and joyful at the same time. Being able to fellowship with the creator of the universe is awesome, but when God starts taking you out of your comfort zone, it can be scary. Especially when he takes you through situations that does not make sense (at least at the present time). He took me out of a good stable job to attend a Bible college, so I would be more equipped to work with teens. Throughout this process, I have had to give up a lot of extra luxuries that comes with a job with a big paycheck. The eye opener was when we had to sell our dream house that we restored in the country (1880’s Victorian farm house on five acres). Throughout all this, God has continued to take me out of my comfort zone as he is trying to make me more dependent upon him. We cannot do great things for God unless we are totally and completely dependent upon Him in all the areas of our lives.