THE LAST WORD

We go camping fairly often and, when we do, we frequently take the dogs with us.  Years ago we had retired racing greyhounds as our canine daughters, and they LOVED to ride in the RV.  They were quiet and never barked, even when we were in the campground.  Perfect traveling companions.

Goldie and Sweetie in Pace Arrow
Goldie and Sweetie on sofa in RV

Now, as the hounds have passed on, and thinking that greyhounds were too big for us to handle, we have two small MinPin canine daughters, Cuddles and Snickers.  I frequently refer to them in posts as they provide never ending illustrations, usually of behavior that we should avoid!

Cuddles and Snickers - did you call us
Are you writing about us again?

We have been trying to train them not to bark when we are in a campground.  That is no small task given the fact that there are people (many of whom have their own dogs on leashes) walking past the RV, there are campers coming and going, there are people talking outside around the campfire, there are just noises upon noises all beckoning the girls to bark.

For Snickers, this no-bark concept is especially difficult.  We don’t know how she was treated before coming to us, but she is very defensive and the hackles on her back raise at the slightest sound, which she then barks and growls at for an extended time.  We have used various techniques and we are on the way to getting her to behave better, but we have found it curious, and humorous, that she has to have the “last word”.

She will start to bark and we say “No bark”, she will shut it down a notch and after several rounds of this between us she will put her head down, grumbling in doggie language, with one final subdued “woof”.  If we say “No bark” after that “woof”, she will whine and then even more softly go “woof”.  It is as if she has to have the last word.

All this background is to say that, if we are honest, we really are no different from Snickers.  Consider for a moment Moses when he was saw the burning bush. The Lord told him that he was to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, but Moses raised numerous objections detailing why he could not do it. Exodus 3.  The final “woof” was Moses’ cry “please send someone else”! Exodus 4:13. Scripture says:

“Then the Lord’s anger was kindled against Moses.”

Exodus 4:14   

No more excuses, Moses.  Do what I direct you to do and I will be with you.  Moses obeyed, God had the last word.

We humans think we can have the last word, but in reality, it is God who always has the last word.

We are lost in sin, we cannot stop ourselves.  We may be able to do some nice things for others, but there is almost always a self-centered aspect to our activity.  We are the center of our universe, and we think that this entitles us to have the last word about anything that touches us or our own universe. 

This attitude ignores the cosmic reality that we are nothing, we are created beings who depend upon the Creator for our very life, for the air we breathe and for each beat of our heart.  Satan is ruling us because of our sinful nature, but God even has the last word in that regard.

When Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross, it was not because of any sin that He had committed, rather it was because He was taking on the sin of all God’s children.  Jesus was paying that price that God’s justice demanded so that those who believed in Jesus would be saved from eternal death.  Just before He died, we read these words:

“… ‘It is finished’ and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”

John 19:30

Jesus did not just mean that it was time for Him to die.  He meant that the job He came to earth to do was completed.  There was nothing more that needed to be done to save His people, to satisfy the debt that they owed because of their sin.  The way of salvation was completed, it was then and it still is finished.  Sin had met its Conqueror, and God had the last word.

God will again have the last word as we see in the final book of the Bible, Revelation. 

So, Beloved, rest in the Lord.  When He is leading you to do something, do it without giving in to the temptation to try to get the last word, the final “woof” if you will.  God always has the last word.  Don’t test His patience, just raise your arms to your Father and thank Him for loving, guiding and encouraging you through whatever is ahead of you.

Father, please forgive me when I have insisted on having the last word.  Enable me to see that this is disobedience of the highest order.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would touch my heart when I am tempted to disobey and run in my own arrogance away from what You desire for me.  Enable me to love You more, through Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Redeemer.

HUMILITY – A LOST ATTRIBUTE OF MODERN MAN

Picture hanging in our office
Picture depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding His lamb in His nail-pierced hand.

Listening to the news reports, listening to radio talk show participants, listening to parents and children interact, listening to parents and children at the sports stadium … just listening to what is going on around you reveals, in a nanosecond, that there is an absence of humility in our modern society.

Humility has, from the beginning, been difficult to find among mortal men. Adam and Eve turned their back on humility and sinned when they ate the forbidden fruit in their attempt to “be like God”. Genesis 3:5.

But Scripture reveals that we have no basis to be proud or arrogant.

O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

Psalm 144:3-4.

According to Scripture, we are temporal, finite; sinners who have absolutely no standing with God. While we may look good to other sinners here on earth, we have no basis to stand puffed up before God.

God is at work in His creation and in my life on a moment by moment basis. He is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (all over, everywhere), and He has extended His grace to us through Jesus Christ, His Son, and our Savior.

What is the response to this powerful, present Creator God? It certainly should not be strutting our stuff before Him, as if we could accomplish anything without Him!

Rather, it should be the response that Abram had when God told him that He was making a covenant with him. Genesis 17:3 says:

 Then Abram fell on his face.

It has been said that Western society is blessed to be steeped in the teaching of Scripture and the person and work of Christ. However, this blessing of familiarity can readily motivate contempt in us for the things of God. Even if we do not consciously disregard the Lord, when we fail to marvel at the Father’s grace, simply because we hear of it every week, we must be careful not to fall into a subtle and powerful form of contempt. 

Canon 6 of the Council of Orange says:

“…if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

We must beware of Satan’s subtle urging that we take credit for our salvation, that we believe that we are not dependent upon God for our very existence, that we forget exactly what we are – sinners, deserving of punishment from a Just God. Satan does not want us to remember that, even though sinners, we have been rescued from that punishment by the grace and mercy of God which is extended to us through belief in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Someone who is drowning and is virtually unconscious of his plight should not become arrogant when a stranger jumps into the water and rescues him from death.  Rather, there should be a recognition that he was unable to do anything to save himself and that the rescuer is due great honor for the valor extended on his behalf.  

This is a picture of us, Beloved.  We were drowning in sin and stuck in the mire of evil deeds, thoughts and desires.  Jesus through God’s providence rescued us – we had nothing to do with it because it is all God’s grace.  There is no basis for us to become proud, holier than thou, arrogant or puffed up in ourselves. 

Take time to meditate on the greatness of our God and His love for us.

This is the antidote for us to defeat Satan’s maneuver against us.  In humble submission to Christ, thank Him for His love and grace. 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

John 10:11

The Good Shepherd wants you to come to Him as a lamb, one of the most humble of creatures.  Rest in Him as He holds you in His arms. 

Father, I pray that You would forgive me when I have slid into a pattern of placing myself before You.  The reality that the God of the Universe knows me, loves me, and sent His Son to die for me calls for nothing other than humble obedience, reverence, love and awe. 

 

GOT POWER?

(This is a revised version of the post originally posted April 21, 2015)

We were camping when an unexpected cold snap caused some damage to the RV.  Frozen hoses and pipes were identified and then we went to work searching the Internet to find a place that had the necessary parts.   A quick call confirmed that they were open and had the needed parts. So now it was up to us to get there.

Since we were in unfamiliar territory, I pulled out the trusty RV GPS that is created specifically for the intrepid RV camper and put in the address.

Directions GPS

We found the store, purchased the necessary supplies, and began our trek back to the campground when we came to several intersecting roads. In fact, this intersection arrived just as my husband was asking what road we needed to be watching for AND just as the GPS flashed “LOW POWER” and “POWERING OFF”.   Then, it just went blank.  Not even a “sorry” or “I tried” or “You have 1 more minute”.  Just … well, nothing.  It apparently didn’t care if we got lost!

I couldn’t believe it.  In my second of need, it was “powering off.”  My frustration stemmed from the fact that, unlike my husband, I get lost in a paper bag.  I am the one who, in Walmart, will turn left into the main aisle thinking I am going to the checkout lane and wind up in sporting goods at the back of the store.  If there are two directions to select from, I will ALWAYS pick the wrong one.

Anyway, I was the one who had insisted that we purchase this GPS, even though my husband has a virtually infallible sense of direction, simply because I do not.  I wanted to have my own backup plan … assuring myself that we could find our way home if something happened to his directional instincts.  So, we purchased this fancy-dancy GPS thing and now, when he actually asked me a directional question, in my truest hour of need, it is “powering off”.

Inside the car, I went into full scale fume mode, when my husband said simply “We’ll just plug it into the charger when we get back to the RV.”

How simple, yet how profound.  Recharge!  That’s the answer for the electronic messages that had disrupted my day. 

But what about spiritually?  How do we get our spiritual power?  And, when we have exhausted our power, how do we recharge?

In Acts 1:8, Scripture records Jesus as promising that his disciples would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” so that they could be effective witnesses for Him. We understand this coming of the Holy Spirit as the day of Pentecost, and because of that day, we believe that the Holy Spirit is within us, as Jesus promised.  John 14:16-17.

But the Holy Spirit’s presence with us is not the whole answer to the “recharge” question.  We must avail ourselves of that power.  I had chargers available at the camp site but the GPS had not been plugged in – now, it was unable to give me the information that I needed when I needed it.  It had no power even though that power had been available.

Likewise, simply having the Scripture in your hand, purse, cell phone or pocket, is not availing yourself of the power which otherwise would be provided. This realization prompted me to consider how often I had ignored going to the Scripture to charge my spiritual batteries.

I had time for many other things, but, I did not have time to quell the growling hunger for my Lord by feeding on the nourishment of His Word in Holy Scripture.  Daily activities took priority over quiet time with Him that would have prepared me for those encounters that He had prearranged for me to handle according to His will, not mine. Ephesians 2:10.

Did my spiritual red light flash “Powering Off” when the assignment came because my batteries had not been charged through reading His Word with contemplation and prayer and then praising Him for His excellent goodness and mercy?

Or, did I not even see the assignment that He had for me that day because my spiritual eyes and ears did not have sufficient power to even recognize the call to present Christ to those around me?

Scripture states that the Spirit and Scripture were given to us so that we would be complete and equipped for every good work that God has for us to do.   2 Peter 1:3 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

The kicker is that we must plug ourselves in to the Source of our Power.  Seek the Lord and He will be found.  He is waiting for you.   Deuteronomy 4:29.   Beloved, don’t delay – go to the source of all power and life, Jesus Christ and His Word.

Father, forgive me when I give more time and attention to worldly things and ignore the more important spiritual preparation that I should undertake.  May I look to Your Word continually and seek the Holy Spirit to provide the power to live my life in constant witness of Your love, grace and mercy.

WHO DO YOU IMITATE?

Although he lived long before anyone reading this post was born, Charles Caleb Colton (1780-1832) rendered a quotation that many of us know today.  He was an English cleric who was also a writer and collector.  His book, including collections of comments and short essays were wildly popular in their day.  One of his most famous quotes which is still in use today is: “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery”.

Imitation.  Children imitate their parents/caregivers all the time.  We were taking care of a young girl while her mother took some night classes at a nearby school.  She was looking at a Golden Book that we had in the house when she began “reading” to us, as her nursery school teacher would do.  She held the book in her hands and looked at the pages, then turned the book facing us and said “Blah, blah, blah, I don’t want to hear about it!”  After saying this, she turned the page and looked at the next two pages, again flipping the book to face us and repeat the same sing-song-phrase. 

Clearly, this young girl was not actually “reading” the printed word, but she was repeating what she regularly heard at home, complete with the intonation that comes from frustration or anger.  Imitation. 

Even if we are adults, don’t think that our days of imitation are over.  We still imitate others. 

When we were in England a number of years ago, we went to Abbey Road in London.  Since some in our family were alive when the Beatles walked across that road, we had to do so as well.  This is our impression of the Beatles’ classic album cover.

Abbey road

It was a great deal of fun to imitate that walk, although it did not bring us any fame, just some honks by irritated drivers!

On a much more serious note, imitation can take on eternal consequences.  For example, we are to imitate the good that other Christians do in their lives.

“Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.”

3 John 1:11

Most of all, we are to imitate the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our Lord and our Savior.  After Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, He told them to imitate His actions.

“For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

John 13:15

He also said:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

John 13:34

Eternal consequences, you may ask?  What if I don’t want to imitate Jesus?

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 14:15

“If you … [then] you…”  The opposite of this, of course, is that if we do not keep His commandments, then we do not actually love Him even if our lips try to say otherwise.

The writer of Hebrews said that we are to imitate the faith of our leaders who faithfully brought the Word of God to us.

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

Hebrews 13:7

Paul put it this way:

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  I urge you, then, be imitators of me.

1 Corinthians 4:15-16

Two questions, thus, come to mind.

  1. Are you obeying Christ’s commandments? Do you love others and serve them in His name?  If not, why not?  Do you really know Jesus Christ as your Savior or are you playing Christian, rather like playing a part in a play? 
  2. Is your life, your witness, your love for the Lord such that you could say the same thing that Paul said? “I urge you to imitate me.”  Is your way of life revealing the strength of faith you have in Jesus Christ?  If not, why not?  If so, can others find Jesus Christ by imitating you?

Imitation.  So easy that a child can do it.  So hard that many will run from its demands.  So much a blessing that it provides grace and abundant living in the here and now, as well as forever more.

Father, I pray that I would be a witness for Your Son, Jesus Christ and that Your Spirit would strengthen me as I seek to imitate Him and His love for others.  Enable me to live so that others can imitate me and grow stronger in their faith and in their devotion to my Lord.

SHOWERS SENT FROM GOD

We have had some rain showers this week.  Nothing like the severe storms that plague parts of the country at various times of the year.  Just showers, maybe some light thunder and a streak of lightning here and there, otherwise just showers.

 

rain-in-mississippi
Rain is visibly falling in several places as we were driving through Mississippi, and heading toward the storm.

If you live in an area where the land is flat and there are no mountains to interrupt your view of the surrounding terrain, you can see the rain showers as they head your way.  We took this picture as we were traveling through Mississippi.  While the cloud covers the entire area, the rain showers are visible as darkened spaces from the cloud.  The lighter spaces are the areas where the rain has not yet started. 

We look forward to rain showers because they are good for the earth.  They water the grass and plants, they reduce the pollen in the air (something great for allergy sufferers), and they provide refreshment to all God’s creatures. 

Of course, there are some who don’t like showers.  Children who want to play outside; people who work outside in the elements; people who have errands, and the rain makes the task more difficult.

Scripture talks about showers as being both a gift from God and a punishment from God.

In the book of Isaiah, we have a beautiful passage which tells of God’s good pleasure and power as He speaks to King Cyrus, a pagan king who was used by God to rebuild Jerusalem:

Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: … I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things. Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it.”

Isaiah 45:1, 5-8

In Genesis we see the judgment side of God’s use of rain.  Here, God is telling Noah that the world will be destroyed by rain because of the great sin and abomination that the people have committed:

For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.”

Genesis 7:4

Noah and his family were spared because he had built the ark as God commanded and he took the animals aboard so that there was a remnant spared from the devastation of the flood.

Scripture also tells us that God is capable not only of sending rain in judgment but also of withholding rain as a judgment upon His people.

“Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice.  When I shut up the heavens so tht there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’”

2 Chronicles 7:12-14

Then, too, we see the prophet Elijah who told Ahab that there would be no rain and, after three years, the prophet prayed for rain.

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”

James 5:17-18

Elijah’s faith was so complete that, after his prayer for rain, when the servant searched the skies for rain clouds six times and saw nothing, he told the servant to look again.  That time the response was that he saw: “a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea”. 1 Kings 18:44  Then Elijah told the servant to run to Ahab and tell him to prepare the chariot so that he would be stuck because of the deluge that was coming. Faith in the promises of God.  The prayers of a righteous person have great power!

Rain can be a blessing from the Lord or it can reflect judgment on rampant sin.  Rain can come in flooding torrents or in gentle showers.  However it comes, indeed even whether it comes, remember that rain is always under God’s control. 

When I was a child, we sang a hymn in my home church called “Showers of Blessing,” the words taken from Ezekiel 34:26. 

“And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing.”

Beloved, look around you and see the showers of blessing that the Lord has already given to you.  Look inside you and realize the showers of blessing that the Lord has provided to you through Jesus Christ and His atoning death and resurrection.  Look at the evidences of the Holy Spirit, resident within you, when you walk your life as a Christian.

Showers of blessing – they are already here, and the Lord will continue to bless His people as they call upon Him in faith. 

Father, I praise Your Name for the blessings You have provided in Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  I thank You that You have promised blessings to Your children now and forever more.  I bow in reverence and awe at Your love and majesty, Your power and grace, Your judgment and mercy.  May I glorify You all the days of my life.

 

COME AS A CHILD

What does it mean to come to Christ as a child?  To consider this question, we need to have a glimpse of what a child is like.

A child is inquisitive.  Always wanting to learn what is going on in the world around him.

boy meets dino

A child is daring, within limits of course.   Playing with a bubble car is fun and challenging as you catch the bubbles and watch them rise into the sky.

Bubbles - the bubble car entertains

A child loves challenges, like mastering the fear to go down the slide alone.

Boy on slide at playground

A child likes to be active.  Just follow a 3-year-old around one day and you will realize how much territory that child can cover.

child at playground gym
Campground play area in Texas campground.

 A child is trusting.  They don’t second-guess the reason people are telling him to do something.  They trust that they will be cared for, unless and until they are hurt in so doing; then the ability to trust someone is difficult to retrieve.

Trust - evan jumping in pool with daddy

A child has faith in the one who is caring for him.  Although they don’t know the word or its meaning, a child demonstrates devotion and loyalty, and the child seeks and returns love.

“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”

Mark 10:13-16

Matthew Henry says of this text:

That there must be something of the temper and disposition of little children found in all that Christ will own and bless. We must receive the kingdom of God as little children; that is, we must stand affected to Christ and his grace as little children do to their parents, nurses, and teachers. We must be inquisitive, as children, must learn as children (that is the learning age), and in learning must believe. (Oportet discentemcredere – A learner must believe.)  The mind of a child is white paper (tabula rose – a mere blank), you may write upon it what you will; such must our minds be to the pen of the blessed Spirit. Children are under government; so must we be.  Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? We must receive the kingdom of God as the child Samuel did, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Little children depend upon their parents’ wisdom and care, are carried in their arms, go where they send them, and take what they provide for them; and thus must we receive the kingdom of God, with a humble resignation of ourselves to Jesus Christ, and an easy dependence upon him, both for strength and righteousness, for tuition, provision, and a portion.

Matthew Henry Commentary on Mark 10.

So, have you come to Christ as a child? 

Do you lean on Christ as a child leans on his parent, nurse or teacher? 

Are you inquisitive as you learn and believe Him? 

Is your mind open to the pen of the Holy Spirit as He writes on your mind and will? 

Have you humbly accepted and resigned yourself to Jesus Christ and His authority over you? 

Do you depend on Him for strength and righteousness? 

Do you depend upon Him for your provision and care, here and forevermore?

May we not be childish in our belief, but may we be childlike as we look to our Savior and give thanks for our Almighty Father.  While we begin as newborn babes in the faith, may we not remain children but, through the grace of our God and the work of the Holy Spirit, may we grow into mature Christians giving glory and honor to our Savior, Jesus Christ and to His Father, the Almighty God. 

Lord, thank You for letting me come to You as a child.  When I start to puff up into arrogant adulthood, let me see the error of my ways and return to my childlike dependence upon You and the guidance of Your Spirit.  May I grow up spiritually into a mature Christian who loves You and who is devoted to Your Son, my Savior and Lord, and may I know the sound of His voice through the Spirit as He guides and leads me along life’s treacherous ways.

 

ABANDONED

As we were driving through a neighboring town, we spotted a large retail complex with the high parking lot light, the mesh screens to keep the merchandise intact, with the promise of more goodies in the adjacent building.  On the property just next to this complex was this small building, that had clearly been abandoned some time earlier.

 Abandoned broken down building cropped

As we looked at it, I wondered what stories that building could tell, and what had happened to reduce it to crumbling timbers.   

Another example of abandonment that we saw on a trip through Colorado is this mining camp, high in the mountains of the Rocky Mountain Range. 

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains 2

 

A closer look at this site reveals that this camp was destroyed by the ravages of time and weather.  When it closed, nothing could save it from the destruction that comes with abandonment.

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains

The problem is that buildings are not the only things that are affected by abandonment.  It is a sad and distasteful statement to make, but the reality is that people are abandoned on a regular basis.

Human relationships are frequently conditional, and often people are abandoned when they have done something that is distasteful to another, and that person abandons the relationship, walking away and leaving the first person alone and sometimes destitute.  Consider the wife who is told that her husband wants a divorce because she no longer pleases him.  He walks out, and she is emotionally, and often, physically and financially abandoned.

Or, consider the employee who has spent decades working for the benefit of the company, only to be told that his efforts are not longer required because technology has rendered his job obsolete.  He is abandoned by his employer and he finds himself without a meaningful job and, sometimes, without means to care for himself or his family.

While it seems the situation is stark and there is no refuge to which to turn, there is One who will not abandon His children – the Lord Jesus Christ.

When the Israelites were facing a severe challenge in the wilderness wanderings, Moses told them:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

This comforting truth was brought from the Old Testament into the New Testament when the writer of Hebrews said:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.“”

Hebrews 13:5

The Psalmist assured us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that:

“For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage;”

Psalm 94:14

Jesus, Himself, told His disciples these comforting words taken from John 14:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Verses 16-18

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Verses 26-27

What comfort and what encouragement, even if you feel abandoned by all others, Jesus has said that He will not leave His sheep, His children, as orphans.  Rather, He will send the Holy Spirit to be within each believer in Him.  The Holy Spirit will teach the believer all that he/she is to know.  The Holy Spirit will encourage and strengthen the believer so that there is no fear.  In place of fear there will be heavenly peace that is sent from Jesus Himself. 

Note, this is not a blank check so that you can get whatever material stuff you want! 

This is a free gift that will provide all the peace and comfort that you need, whenever you need it.  It will provide courage and strength to face whatever is ahead of you, even that which you don’t recognize today.  There is no reason to fear because your Lord and Savior is with you.

This is a free gift with no limit because your debt has been paid in full by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.  You are debt free. That does not mean that you will not sin any more, believers in Christ are not immune from the temptation to sin, but the Spirit gives us the strength to withstand sin.  And, if we yield to tht temptation, confession and repentance will restore us to the peaceful relationship we can have with our Lord.

Abandoned?  I personally know that it is a scary time, but you are not alone if you are in Christ Jesus.  It is not an easy time, and getting through the trial will probably take more time than you like, but God’s schedule is eternal and not limited to our minutes.  He can give you peace moment by moment, as He directs you to those who can assist with your needs.  While God is with you each moment of this trial, His renovation of your spirit and your outlook may take some time, but it is a transformation that is worth the wait!

Often, when something is abandoned, there is a remarkable new structure that is ultimately built exactly where the abandoned building had stood.  When we feel we are abandoned, God can take this time to rebuild and refortify us so that we can serve Him in a new way. 

Rest in the Lord, and let Him overwhelm you with His peace, as He prepares you for your next adventure in the life with Christ.

Father, I thank You that You are the master builder who can transform an abandoned individual into someone who lives for You and who loves Your Son.  Thank You for not leaving us as orphans in this hard land; and thank You for the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, a peace that passes all understanding.

SWEET

Sweet.  This is a word that has recently gone through a metamorphosis of meaning.  It used to mean, almost exclusively, something that was sugary, lucious or candied.  But now it has taken on a somewhat different turn.

The Urban Dictionary now defines “sweet” as:

An intensive used to express satisfaction, acceptance, pleasure, excellence, exaltation, approval, awe, or reverence. When used individually, the level of satisfaction expressed is most often directly proportionate to the duration of the vowel sound.   

Compare:

“Mashed potatoes for dinner!  Sweet.”
“I just won a million dollars? SWEEEEEEET!”

This week, I opened the window on the porch and immediately I was surrounded by the sweet aroma of honeysuckle combined with the knock-out roses beneath the window.  I had seen the roses begin to bloom, but I lost track of time and did not expect to have such a wonderful surprise.

Roses outside window cropped

Sweet aroma – what a glorious gift.  That was SWEEEEET!

Scripture talks of sweet aromas, in both the Old and New Testaments. 

In the book of Genesis, God created the plants and trees, commanding the earth to bring forth vegetation, including plants yielding seed and fruit trees bearing fruit which contains their seed, each according to its kind. Genesis 1:11-12.  The beautiful blooms and scents of the flowering plants are all part of God’s magnificent creation that evokes each of the senses, including sight and smell.

In the book of Exodus, God directs that “fragrant incense” be used in His Tabernacle.  His worship was not to be unlovely or boring, notwithstanding the fact that they were in the wilderness.  It was to include beautiful furnishings, draperies, clothing and golden ornaments; and I was to be bathed in fragrant incense.

The Psalmist talks of the sacrifices that he would bring to God, and says:

“I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, With the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah”

Psalm 66:15 NKJV

The Psalmist also says that the Lord wants our thoughts and meditations to be sweet:

May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the LORD.”

Psalm 104:34

I can have sweet meditations with the Lord only one way, when I am living in sweet communion with Him and have His Word in my heart.  

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Psalm 119:103

The New Testament describes the sweet, fragrant offering that believers bring to God, through Jesus Christ:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:1-2

Indeed, Paul tells, the Corinthians that we are the aroma of Christ to God and those around us:

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,” 

2 Corinthians 2:14-15

Finally, we read of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John, the last book in the Holy Bible.  There we read that the prayers of the saints on earth are brought to God with sweet incense:

“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

Revelation 5:8

“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.”

Revelation 8:3-4  

Here we are told that the prayers of the saints was the incense that rose before God.  Can you imagine the depth of the privilege of prayer?  The prayers of sinners who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb constitute the very incense in the temple of our God. Have we been praying diligently for God’s kingdom and for His children? 

So, Beloved, what kind of fragrance best describes you?  I don’t mean what perfume, cologne or after shave you use.  I mean, when you have an interaction with someone, what aroma do you leave with them?  Is it the smell of anger, hate, distrust, complaint, dissatisfaction?  Is it the stench of lies, abuse, deception, or arrogant pride?

Or is it the pleasing aroma that comes when the Spriit of God lives within the child of God?  Is it the aroma of a loving, kind and encouraging spirit?  Is it the sweet fragrance of God’s Word in action, giving aid to those in need and lending a hand to someone in pain? 

USED First rose of the summer

What scent do you spread when you walk through your world?

What do you smell when I pass by?

I pray it is the sweet-smelling fragrance of a heart and soul given to the Lord Jesus Christ, living for Him in witness to His great salvation and atonement for the Children of God.

Father, I pray that which the Psalmist prayed so long ago, may my meditation be sweet to You, Father, and may I be glad in the LORD Jesus Christ, my Savior and my King.

“DON’T DO IT!  UH UH -NO!”

It seems that we have recently focused on our canine children as illustrations of spiritual lessons for our daily lives.  Today is no exception as our MinPin doggie daughters, also known as “the girls”, have once again tried our patience.

We have tried to “train” the girls to stay put in one place while we are eating our meals.  The original intent of this routine was to stop them from barking while we are eating, and also to stop them from begging during the meal.  It has, for the most part, stopped the barking.  But, it has not been as successful with the begging.

Usually their “place” is the living room sofa as we are eating dinner in the dining room, in full site of them.  When we have finished our meal, we will say “you’re through” and they are to come bounding up to the table for a good girl treat, thankful to their parents that they are being so wonderfully rewarded.  That is what is supposed to happen.

Doggies ready to jump
Doggies ready to jump!

What actually happens is that they go to their “place” right away when we tell them to do so as we are sitting down to the table.  Then, when the wait is too long or if the aroma is especially exciting to them (such as the smell of bacon), they hop down and come over to the table where we are sitting.  At first, they would just run over and jump up at our side to tell us that they are there.  We, then, point to the sofa, say “Uh Uh – No, go back, place” and they run back, jumping up on the sofa and sitting as if they were good girls.

If we are engaged in serious conversation during dinner, they become stealth doggies.  They slide off the sofa and sneak through the kitchen so we don’t see them walking around.  Then they cut between us to get under the table in the hopes that something will have fallen through a crack.  We find out that one or both are under the table when we move our feet and hit something.  Then, we again, point to the sofa and say the dreaded words “Uh Uh – No, go back!”. 

I suspect that we are not the only ones that have this experience.  However, aside from the humorous smiles that their actions might induce, there is a parallel with my own life experiences and obedience, and it is not at all humorous.

As long ago as when the law was given to the Israelites, God said:

“So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 22:31

Again, in the wilderness they were told:

“You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.”

Deuteronomy 13:4

God is serious about our being obedient to His commandments.  In fact, Jesus used obedience to His commandments as the test of our love for Him.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. …  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

John 14:15, 21

In full recognition of the fact that we could not keep Jesus’ commandments through our own power, Jesus told His disciples that, after His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit would be sent to help them do that which He commanded them.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 14:26

Moreover, the Holy Spirit seals us in Christ. He is the surety, the guarantor of our salvation. 

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

Ephesians 1:13

Indeed, one of the Holy Spirit’s assignments with respect to believers is to transform us into the image of our Lord and Savior. 

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

When God has told me to stay in a difficult situation, I try to jump out of it, a classic definition of disobedience.  When I do, it is as if I hear the Holy Spirit saying “Don’t do it. Uh Uh – No!”.   Often I obey that voice and repent from my attempted jump of disobedience.  But, there are times when I disobey intentionally and then, too, I must repent of my arrogant disobedience and seek forgiveness, asking the Spirit to strengthen me so that I am able to resist temptation. 

God has given us His Word and His Spirit who indwells the believer in Jesus Christ.  The Spirit transforms us and renews our mind so that, as we are sanctified, we are conformed to the image of Jesus.  But that process is not linear. 

By that I mean, it is not a smooth road toward transformation.  We struggle and fail to obey the directives that are clearly given in Scripture and brought to our attention through the Holy Spirit.  Praise the Lord that when we have been disobedient, the Holy Spirit still is within us and He will tenderly guide you back into relationship with Him and with our Lord if you will confess your sin and repent. 

Next time you see your canine or Homo sapiens children disobeying your directive, stop and ponder whether there is something in your own life for which you need to confess and repent.  Is there some act of disobedience that you need to address?  Is the Holy Spirit saying “Uh Uh – No!”? 

The Psalmist knew the sweet fellowship with God that confession and repentance provides when he said:

Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah.  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”

Psalm 32:2-5

When David sinned, and kept silent, he was tormented day and night because of his guilt.  When he turned to God and confessed his sin, he was forgiven and he could say “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity”.  Happy is the one who does not stand before God covered in the guilt of his sin. 

Doggies patiently waiting
Obedient doggies!

Praise God that the Spirit says “Uh Uh – No!” preventing us from sinning, but praise God also that when we fail to be obedient, we can be restored to full fellowship with Him through confession and repentance. 

Father, I praise You for Your Holy Spirit and for the work that He does in my life as He guides me and leads me in the path that I should take.  Thank You too that Your Spirit also stops me from disobeying and, when I do sin, that He leads me back into the fold.  I praise Your Holy Name.