Monday, July 13, 2015

Called to Serve--Anyone, Anywhere

             "Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (I Corinthians 4:1)

In church this morning, we were treated to a special speaker. Our friend and neighbor John Gray shared his work with us as a Gideon. For anyone not familiar with the Gideons, all one needs to do is check the nightstand at the next hotel where a Gideon Bible will be found. Over two billion of these Bibles (including millions of New Testaments distributed throughout the world at schools, events, and within the military) are available to anyone, anywhere at no cost.

And the Gideons? Just regular guys with regular families...called to serve and answering that call to be "stewards of the mysteries of God".

We are all called--but do we answer? Who are the daily servants of Christ? How is one a steward of the mysteries of God?

Just look around...these good folks are everywhere.

And you're probably one of them, too.

Every time we do something for our family, our neighbors, or our friends--no matter how small the deed--and do it in stewardship to God, as a servant of Christ, we are putting into practice the call. No matter what the deed, we are following the instruction of our Lord and increasing the Kingdom of God on earth.

Peace be with you.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

In the Garden

"I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses"
--from In the Garden by Austin Miles
I know of few things in this world that put me more in communion with the Lord than being in my gardens. In the summertime, I like to go out early in the morning just after sunrise. There's always a wonderful quietness at that time of day; the world is just waking up, with the birdsong of a few early-risers like me. As I walk through the grass, my shoes always get as wet as standing in a rain. But, you know, that's a good thing--that same dew gives life to all the flowers, the bushes, the trees, and the plants growing in the vegetable garden. When there's a healthy dew on the roses, the roses grow well.
There is a blessed stillness in the early morning hours in the garden. All my thoughts and meditations for the day are as fresh as the air I breathe. "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24). It is the perfect time to hear the voice of God in my prayers. Working in the life-giving soil puts me so very close to our Lord. He gives us all good things.
"And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other can ever know."
There in the garden I share my every thought, concern, and joy with the Lord. I know I am His own and blessed with His perfect love. To be a child of God is the greatest joy we'll ever know.
Peace be with you.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is My Command

It's been far too long since I've written on this blog. Spring arrived and with it all the wonderful things that my favorite time of year brings, namely tending to gardens. So now, on this rainy late June evening, sections of the garden are freshly planted with some late summer veggies, while the rest grows on with its towering celery and sunflowers, its many herbs, late lettuce, peppers, and a plethora of tomato vines bearing green promises of scrumptious red tomatoes to come in the next few weeks.

In the midst of all this joyous time outside among the veggies, the flowers, the fruit trees and bushes and brambles, the world took some turns. For those of us who hold our Christian beliefs near and dear, it's a time of pause.

Our world, with the whoosh of a pen, became quite different. And, to give us greater pause, those of us who hold our tightly to our precious Christian beliefs became less liked and tolerated. We are living in a time when we are shamed by our friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even family for not being tolerant, yet we are not tolerated. We are aware that, with the bang of the gavel of a judge, we immediately became hard-hearted and, according to many, we just don't get it.

We get it. We've been told this would happen. It's okay. We're in good hands.  "You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 10:22).

Are we hard-hearted and hateful because we don't join in hardy agreement with ideas that contradict tenets from our Bible? I don't think so. Please take a moment and read the following passages:

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. This is my command: Love one another" (John 15:9-13, 17).

So, you see, we love all--it is commanded of us by our Savior and we obey. We may not agree with what our brothers and sisters on this blessed Earth choose to believe, but we love all, nonetheless.

We pray all will know this love. Blessings.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Shedding a Layer

"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1).

Today was one of those first glorious days of late winter. After church, I actually took my coat off before heading into a restaurant for lunch with my mom. I always feel a particular sense of freedom--shedding that layer that clearly defines a time of the year that is certainly far from my favorite. I feel lighter, in both weight and spirit. Released from the feeling of being "bounded" by a bulky coat, hat, and/or gloves is such a feeling of liberation. I step more lively, and I just feel better in general.

When we think about it, God allows us to "take our coats off" and enjoy the lightness of a new spirit in His love. Most of the time we walk around in those moth-eaten old coats of despair, short-sightedness, and frustration with ourselves as well as with others. We don't like those ratty old "coats" of living lives that are less than Christ-centered, yet we continue to keep the buttons done up, the collar pulled up around our ears. We're not comfortable, yet we are familiar with the feeling of being encumbered by our being tethered by our everyday habits.

As more and more coat shedding days present themselves in the near future, let's keep in mind that just as we can free ourselves from the yoke of the heavy old coat, we can free ourselves permanently from the yoke of our sins through the love and sacrifice of Christ our Savior.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

God's Love Knows No Season

“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” ~Genesis 18:22
This time of year is a tough one for most of us. It takes a pretty hard-core winter lover to still be tolerating mid-February weather without feeling just a little cabin fever or just plain grumpy and impatient for warmer days--or at least not so frigid days.
On these days that seem to last forever (wonder why the summer days, although longer in their daylight hours actually seem shorter than these long, cold days?), we can look to the beautiful verse from Genesis: "As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease".
We're in the depths of the deepfreeze at the present, but we know that seedtime warmth will be here--we thank God for his beautiful world, no matter what the season.
Peace be with you.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Our Ultimate Valentine

"For the eyes of the Lord are intently watching all who live good lives, and he gives attention when they cry to him. Yes the Lord hears the good man when he calls to him for help, and saves him out of all his troubles" (Psalm 34:15,17).

What is the ideal Valentine, we ponder...someone who thinks of us always, has our best interest in mind, loves us unconditionally, is always there for us. To find someone like this is the ultimate hope of most everyone who walks this Earth.

Isn't it odd that we can't always see and always know that we already have someone who has loved us unconditionally since we came into existence?  Our Lord is surely intently watching us--all He asks in return is that we live good lives. It's a sometimes difficult thing to do, but certainly not impossible...our Lord never asks us to do the impossible.  We are safe with him.  He saves us from all of our  troubles.  We all have periods in our lives when the road seems rough, but if we believe--truly believe--we will be sheltered by his ultimate love. Granted, our life's story may not always play out as we have formulated it, but surrounded by His love, it will be the way it should be--because of living in His light.

Happy Valentine's Day to all ...and even though you may not have someone showering you with cards, candy, and flowers at the moment, know full well that you are loved today and every day more than you'll ever realize . We have been chosen to be loved.  

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Looking to the Mustard Seed

"He replied, 'Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you'" (Matthew 17:20).

 It's that time of year when I start getting the  itch to begin gardening. Of course, all gardening that I do is within the confines of looking over seed catalogs, beginning the purchase of seed, and planting a few items that need early germination time to put into the early spring garden. Nothing too major league here, but still a great deal of fun.

 As I was putting some tiny seeds into their germination pods earlier this week, I started thinking about the parable of the mustard seed. That drew me to go upstairs to the kitchen and examine the mustard seeds in my spice cabinet.  How tiny they are! And yet...if we only have faith in our Lord of that size, we will be able to achieve great things in His name.

 It just doesn't seem that it should be that difficult, but wow is it.  Every morning I wake up, I know that today will be a day that my faith will be at least as big as that tiny little seed; alas, by the end of the day, I've not achieved that very  reasonable goal our Lord asks of us.  So, I pray at night that the next day will be more successful.

 I guess just having the faith that someday I'll have the faith the size of a mustard seed is a good start. God is good to us that way...He gives us hope anew each day to get just a little closer to heaven.

 Peace be with you.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Gift of Stewardhip

Stewardship. Sounds like a fancy word for work, doesn't it? Even the dictionary would agree. Among the various definitions, the words responsibility, duty, "put in charge", and even moral responsibility are listed to describe this word.

So how on earth can stewardship ever be described as a gift? How is work, responsibility, or duty a gift?

Well, for one thing, having responsibility makes us humble. Being "put in charge" can be a bit daunting. Our performance is in the spotlight; it is certainly not an opportunity to boast, but rather to keep our proverbial noses to that proverbial grindstone. And, believe it or not, that is truly a gift we are given.

How so?

In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that "therefore anyone who humbles himself as [this] little child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven" (18:4). In our daily lives we are not often given chances to act with pure humbleness and humility. Our egos many times get into the way. We play out the "I'm in charge" aspect of Stewardship, but we are missing the point. Anyone can say he or she is in charge of a situation, a group of people, or an event. But a true steward purposely takes the back seat and becomes the humble servant, assuming grave responsibility for the task or the group with whom he or she has been entrusted . It truly teaches us the lesson Christ gives us of being as humble as a child.

It's a new month, and a new week--what better time for us to practice afresh the true meaning of stewardship? We'll discover anew this precious gift.

Peace be with you.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Slipping and Sliding

Psalm 15:1-5--"Lord, who may go and find refuge and shelter in your tabernacle up on your holy hill? Anyone who leads a blameless life and is truly sincere. Anyone who refuses to slander others, does not listen to gossip, never harms his neighbor, speaks out against sin, criticizes those committing it, commends the faithful followers of the Lord, keeps a promise even it if ruins him, does not crush his debtors with high interest rates, and refuses to testify against the innocent despite the bribes offered against him--such a man shall stand firm forever."

As I write this, we're experiencing one of those blessed respites from the deep-freeze of January. Sunshine, temperatures in the 50s--no slipping and sliding out there for awhile, and I know you're as happy with that as I am.

The Bible verses listed above give  a different view of slipping and sliding. These words are expectations of all of us to live a truly Godly life.  I don't know about you, but I've been doing some major slipping and sliding. As I read these words this morning, I felt pretty lowly. I know I've fallen short time and again--you, too, perhaps? Worse yet, how would we treat a person who was able to keep close to these words? It sounds, well, heavenly to be around this type of person, but the world in which we currently live has slipped and slid so much morally and ethically these days to the point where a person faithfully practicing these charges might seem  more the politically-incorrect pariah than a good person.

If we live a truly Christ-filled life, we have been warned by Christ himself that we will not be the life of party...or likely  even invited to the party. It's not a popular view to speak out against secularly-accepted but Biblically disapproved ways of living.  And just as we've all experienced some slipping and sliding on cold, icy January days, we know just how difficult it can be to walk steadily and securely without taking a tumble. It's the same with our words and actions. We need to "brace" ourselves with our faith and looking to others with similar resolve  to share support.

Peace be with you. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Faith--What Else Do We Have? What More Do We Need?

Matthew 8: 5-13--"When Jesus arrived in Capernaum, a Roman army captain came and pled with him to come to his home and heal his servant boy who was in bed paralyzed and wracked with pain. 'Yes,' Jesus said, 'I will come and heal him.' Then the officer said, 'Sir, I am not worthy to have you in my home; {and it isn't necessary to come}. If you will only stand here and say, 'Be healed,' my servant will get well! I know, because I am under the authority of the superior officers and I have authority over my soldiers, and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave boy 'Do this or that,' and he does it. And I know you have authority to tell his sickness to go--and it will go!' Jesus stood there amazed! Turning to the crowd he said, 'I haven't seen faith like this in all the land of Israel! And I tell you this, that many Gentiles {like this Roman officer}, shall come from all over the world and sit down in the Kingdom of Heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And many an Israelite--those for whom the Kingdom was prepared--shall be cast into outer darkness, into the place of weeping and torment.' Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, 'Go on home. What you have believed has happened!' And the boy was healed that same hour!"

The above account is one of my favorite reports of Christ's journey while on Earth amongst the people of Israel. Here we have a Roman soldier, a very unlikely candidate to tolerate this trouble-causer Jesus, much less to actually come to him for help in his time of great need. Greater yet, this was a show of true and undeniable FAITH that Christ would heal the servant boy when the child wasn't even in Christ's midst, but rather back at the Roman soldier's home. This was a beautiful example of true faith from a soldier who thought and acted as a true soldier; one who understood the practicality of authority. He also clearly understood something that Christ's contemporaries failed to see--Christ was the ultimate authority.

How much smoother our lives would be if we lived with the belief system of this Roman soldier. If only we faithfully followed the sacred prayer, "Thy will be done." Truly, what else do we have in this life that is so trustworthy? More importantly, what more do we truly need?

This week, let's give ourselves a break and know that we don't need to be in charge. We need only to trust. And pray. And believe.

Peace be with you.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

New Year, New Insights

Happy New Year! This is that fun period of time when we're in the "infancy" stage of a new year. We pretty much are given a blank slate; the possibilities we are told on TV commercials, ads online and in paper media, are endless.

Crazily, within about a week of this heady excitement we're back into many of our old habits--good and not so good.

 This year I propose a challenge to all --including myself.

 Read your Bible. That's it. Just read.

 Several years ago, I discovered a good perpetual calendar-type Bible with an Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs section set for each day. The Bible is pretty dog-eared and, for the most part, I've switched to a Kindle version so I can read on the road or on the treadmill. Needless to say, over the years that I read through these sacred texts, I have learned a great deal...but oh, how much more I have to learn. And I'll continue to re-read and re-read for as many years as I'm given.

 Every  day I read, I learn something new that I've never noticed before--no other book will ever give me this  challenge. For example, even though I've read the story of Genesis so very many times, just the other  day I learned that the animals that were herded onto the ark were more in number than I always though. There were actually seven pairs of some animals--those for food and sacrifices. Makes sense. But then I also read that with several of the birds there were seven pairs as well. All the times I've read this...all the Sunday School lessons I sat through...all the discussions of pairs!

 Interesting. I'm sure the Biblical scholars have wrung their hands over this over the years...I'm going to just believe that God had this under control.

 Another segment in Genesis that had me doing a double take was when  I read  that God stated that the newly-created man and woman were like "us"…"us". Was God speaking to an angel? A cherub? It doesn't really matter to me who it was...I just find it fascinating--and it makes me happy to know that God had someone far more matured than these new and mistake-ridden human children to discuss their foibles with and doing some thinking out loud.

 So, if you're looking for some good, riveting reading in 2015, pick up a Bible. If you've not read one for awhile, give it another try. Ah, the blessings you will receive!