CLEAN SLATE!

I believe that I have commented, at least once in this site, that we live in a heavily wooded area, and we have LEAVES to rake up in the fall.  Actually, we pull a leaf vacuum behind our lawn tractor and it shreds the leaves into little pieces which we then take to the street for the city to pick up.

The leaves in the front yard are handled that way.  The leaves in the backyard, however, are mulched in the same way but they are put into the woods in the back yard rather than trucking them down to the street.

Shredded Leaves down at the street

This year was somewhat unique because virtually all of the leaves hanging from the trees fell before the pickup date.  Also, we had very little rain so the leaves were not wet making their removal less difficult. The result was this huge pile of shredded leaves.

In short, this year we had a bumper crop of leaves, a condition which is testified to by the size of the pile along the street.

Yard without leavesThis year, therefore, was also unique insofar as I resulted in a situation seldom seen by us — a “leaf-free” yard.

(Please, if you are a horticulturalist, don’t inspect the yard too closely!  It is, in many areas, also a “grass-free” zone!  That’s probably fodder for a future post!)

The point of the story is a simple one – the ability to have all of the leaves removed from the yard provides us with an opportunity to have a clean slate in the front yard.  Now, we can do what is needed to improve the grass quality, to plant flowers for the spring, to do many things that the plethora of leaves prevented us from doing in the past.

This new year also provides us with a clean slate.  A new year and a new decade – 2020.  If the Lord wills, we will have 365 days ahead of us to do things differently than we have done before.  I’m not necessarily talking about making resolutions –those things are extremely fragile and I usually break them within the first couple of weeks of the new year.

I’m talking about making new habits that will bring spiritual growth, that will increase our love for our Lord and Savior.  We can use this new year to check on our heart … so, how is yours?

Lisa Allen in her devotion 4 Habits of a Healthy Heart, dated September 15, 2014, suggests these habits that will produce a healthy heart:

  1. We should develop a heart for God.
  2. We should develop heart to heart relationships with other Christians.
  3. We should open the eyes of our heart as we go through our day.
  4. We should appreciate the uniqueness of our heart.

First, when we develop a heart for God, we will make time to read His Word daily.  I’m not talking about reading the single verse in the Upper Room and then ignoring scripture the rest of the day.  I’m talking about spending time with God and meditating on the truths found in His Word.  This will give us godly wisdom and will prepare us to meet the hazards and challenges of daily life.  David said:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

Psalm 119:105

David says scripture is a light for us. But, it spreads no light if our Bible is only on our nightstand or shut up on a shelf without being read!

Second, we should develop heart to heart relationships with others in the Christian community.  We can develop this when we worship with people weekly, when we fellowship with them in small group Bible studies or Sunday School, when we eat together at the communion table or at a potluck meal.  We read in Acts 2:42:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

At our church, every other month we have a specific women’s ministry event, such as a game night, craft event, a church-wide picnic, spring and fall retreats and a Christmas brunch.  Participation in these activities enable women to meet each other in an informal, fun way so that we can develop healthy relationships that can encourage our spiritual growth.  We can’t pray for other’s needs if we don’t know them!  Be sure not to get so busy that you don’t have time to worship with others, to fellowship with others and to pray for others!

Third, allow God to open the eyes of your heart to see others as God sees them.  When we spend time with God each day, we begin to see others through God’s eyes.  We will notice their gifts and talents, their passions and their fears.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

We can encourage others as they develop their gifts and their strengths.  This will allow us to reach out to the world, and not limit our interaction with the Christians we see in church on Sunday!

Fourth, recognize that you are a unique creation by God.  Just as there are no two identical snowflakes, there is no one else just like you.

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. … 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. … 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:1-5, 13, 16

God knows you intimately because He created you with a unique heart, mind and soul. You are a creation by God with skills and abilities that you should put to use in God’s kingdom work.  Yes, nurture your marriage and care for the family, but also take time to invest in activities that reflect your own passion and ability.  If you are a leader, volunteer to lead a Sunday School class or Bible study.  If you want to learn to do something, take a course at a nearby school or take a class on-line.

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Acts 1:8

Don’t forget that a necessary component of having a healthy heart for the Lord is to find ways to express your own gifts.  God created you for His purposes and He gave you the abilities to do His work through His Holy Spirit.  Be God’s hands and feet in this world by ministering as Jesus did. Take your focus off of yourself and your problems by redirecting your focus to serving others!

Make 2020 a new year with a clean slate and work toward developing a healthy heart.  The clutter of the old year and its leaves have been removed … the new year is here with a clean slate on which you need to put your imprint.  Make it one that glorifies our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Father, I pray that I would take this time to develop a heart for You by reading Your Word faithfully, not out of a sense of obligation but out of love for Your Word.  I pray that I would take this year and fellowship with other Christians so that I can encourage them and receive strength from them as well.  I pray that I would see others as You see them, people who are lost in sin and need a Savior, and I pray that I would introduce them to Jesus through the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Thank You for making me a unique individual, with gifts and talents granted by You for use in Your kingdom.  May I use whatever gifts you have given me so that Your name will be glorified throughout the world.

ONE STOP AND IT’S ALL DONE!

When we were in Bar Nunn, Wyoming, right near the RV park, there was a sign that I thought was hysterical.

Car truck dog wash sign

In my mind, I was envisioning the long conveyor belt pulling the car, then pulling a truck followed by a dog, all of them going in tandem through the sprayer with the soap squirting all over, then the brushes or perhaps strips of material swinging around lathering up the soap.  Of course, then there is the rinse which is followed by the fans to dry off the car, the truck and the dog! 

I started to laugh, with my mind going to a mental picture of our two MinPin canine daughters going through the dog wash. 

Cuddles and Snickers near us while moving down highway in RV
Cuddles and Snickers resting between the seats in the RV on our trip out West.

Of course, the dog wash was not actually a mechanical thing, rather it was a room with a tub and faucet for cleaning the little darlings!   The mental image, however, stayed with me and brought a chuckle even when they were sitting on my lap sound asleep.

One stop cleaning for car, truck and beast.

Often we want to multi-task, that is, getting more than one thing done at a time.  This is especially true in our modern society with all the technical advantages that former generations did not have and could not even imagine.  

You can be walking, talking on the phone and looking up the Google map of where you are going all at the same time.  We drive the car while eating the fast food on our way to an appointment while an associate is telling us detailed information we need to know before getting to the meeting. 

Multitasking, dividing our attention between multiple things is a common sight in the modern society in which we live.

While you can accomplish much with multitasking, there is at least one thing that you cannot accomplish with that technique.  You cannot commune with the Almighty God while you are doing numerous other things.

In the Holy Bible, the book of Matthew, we read the following account between a lawyer and Jesus:

“And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law.” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.””

Matthew 22:35-40 ESV

Loving God with all your heart, soul and mind … that doesn’t sound like multitasking to me.  That sounds like we are to meditate on God, on Who He is, on His commandments, on His Word in Scripture … we are to think about God and not squeeze Him into our schedule right after dusting and just behind laundry. 

The Psalmist talks about meditation repeatedly in the Psalter.  Consider these verses:

“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.

Psalm 77:12 ESV

“I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.”

Psalm 119:15 ESV

Beloved, the Almighty God has given us His Son as a sacrifice to pay for our sins.  He who was sinless died a horrible death and suffered the wrath that the Holy God has for sin, our sin.  He took our blame so that we could received His righteousness, through faith in His amazing work.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.”

Psalm 29:2 ESV

The vision of God and the recognition that we are to worship Him properly always brings a realization of our sin.  See what Isaiah says when he saw the vision of God:

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.  And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!””

Isaiah 6:1-5 ESV

Isaiah clearly was not considering multitasking when he acknowledged his sin after recognizing the holiness of God.  God is holy and He deserves, no He properly demands, wholehearted worship.  He is the Creator and we are the miniscule creations, but He loved us enough to send Christ to pay the price for our sin.  So, while we may be weaklings when compared to the omnipotent God, we are His pride and joy as His children when we come to Him through faith in His Son.

So, multitasking is fine for some things, but the worship of God deserves our full attention as we seek to know Him better and as we give Him the honor and worship due His Holy Name.

The place for the car wash, truck wash, and dog wash pales when we remember that the Christian is washed in the blood of the Lamb, and that washing does not wear off and does not have to be repeated over and over.  Further, it is a washing that is unique to each and every one of us, and it makes us God’s children for all time.

Meditate on all that the Almighty God has done for you.  Meditate on the work of Jesus Christ as He suffered abandonment by the Father because God could not look on His Son who was covered in humanity’s sin.  Meditate on the work of the Holy Spirit as He quickens our hearts so we can exercise faith in Christ and then He teaches us what we need to know about who God wants us to be – people who are transformed into the image of His Beloved Son.

Praise His Holy Name!

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.

PROSPECTING – DIGGING DEEP AND THE BIBLE

 

It seems to me that virtually all young children, especially boys, are intrigued by dinosaurs.  While these behemoths have been extinct for millennia, interest in them seems to be growing and intensifying in these days.

boy meets dino
Grandson inspecting toy dinosaur!

Years ago, our young grandson spent many hours playing with the toy dinosaur trying to figure out how it moved.  He loved that dinosaur, but it was a passing fancy.

 

One of our older grandsons has loved dinosaurs, and all things like fossilized bones, since he took his first breath.  Even as a child, his birthday cake was a dinosaur!

 

Birthday cake - dinosaur
Apparently, all dinosaurs are not extinct!

He reads about them, he knows how to identify them, he knows what they ate and where they lived, in short, he loves dinosaurs.  Now in his teens, he has said that he wants to be a paleontologist and/or archaeologist and I am fully confident that he will succeed in that venture if his interest continues.

Evans Day 011
Fossil found at Gray’s Fossil Site in Tennessee.

As a surprise for a job well done, we took him to Gray’s Fossil Site in upper East Tennessee.  The extinct animal pictured above greets you at the Museum and other fossils reveal that shovel-tusked elephants, saber toothed cats, semi-aquatic pot-bellied rhinos are just some of the animals that roamed in the area.

Evan searching for bones among rocks
Searching in the dirt and stone for treasures at Gray’s Fossil Site in Tennessee.

One of the activities that he LOVED was to dig in a tray of dirt and rocks in the hope that he would find a fossil or piece of bone from ages past.   Of course, you can’t make that kind of “find” by just gazing at the dirt and rocks.  No, you have to investigate it, handle it, look at it with some magnification to determine if you really have a “find” or you have a piece of hard dirt (also a likelihood in East Tennessee).

Evans Day 041
Inspecting small piece material found in the dirt and stones.

 

He had a marvelous time digging and investigating, looking for the fossilized treasures that might be there.

 

His devotion to dinosaurs and his steady interest and determined study of them is commendable.  And, I am sorry to say, that it put me to shame.  I’m not referring to my interest in dinos, I am referring to my reading of Scripture.

 

How do I read Scripture, the Holy Word of the Living Creator God?  There are times that I read it and really think about it: but far more often I read it as if it were a novel … picking it up here and putting it down again without thought.

 

In the Old Testament we read:

For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

Ezra 7:10

 

When I read Scripture, do I “set my heart” to study God’s Word?  Do I look up words so I understand their meaning and context?  Do I ask why the Holy Spirit used that specific word when so many others might have been used?   Do I think about why this is included in the Holy Writ in the first place?  If it was important enough for the Holy Spirit to direct its inclusion in the Bible, what am I to learn from this?

 

When I read Scripture, do I consider the entire chapter as a unit?  Do I think about the chapter in the context of the book as a whole?  Do I investigate how this book relates to the overall theme of both the Old and New Testament in Scripture – Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of His people?

 

The Psalmist said:

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Psalm 119:105

 

Do I consider the Word to be a light to my path when I read the Bible?  Do I look closely at how the text would apply to my life, today?  Do I look at the Scripture and focus on what it says, while waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak in that still small voice that is usually drowned out by the television, stereo or radio, and the general cacophony of our 21st Century life?

 

When I read Scripture, do I expect to hear God speak to me?  Do I expect that the Scripture passage will apply to my life?  Do I expect that the Word will touch my heart and draw me closer to Him?

 

I confess that I cannot answer these questions in the affirmative!  I am convinced, however, that if I want my life to grow in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, this is how I must read His Word.  I must be quiet so that I can study it, focus on it, learn it, listen to it and let the Holy Spirit speak to me.

 

In the New Testament, we are told to study the Word so that we can teach others.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15.  The King James Version translates this verse as follows:

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

 

No matter how you say it, the Christian should study the Bible, carefully read it and investigate what the words are, what the text says, and what it means in our world today.

 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 

Since this is true, then we are in possession of a Book that reveals the God that we serve, as well as His requirements, demands, blessings and curses.  It reveals His love and His justice, His holiness and our sinfulness.  It is a Book that we should reverence as well as read; it is our heavenly guidebook given by God for our benefit … we would be foolish to ignore it or to treat it lightly!

The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; but you, O LORD, are on high forever.

Psalm 92:6-8

 

Father, I confess that I have not read your Word with the intensity and zeal that it deserves.  I confess that I have not expected You to speak to me through your Word, and I confess that I have not followed the commands that You have spoken in your Word.  Forgive me and help me to understand and accept your Word as I read and study it, and I ask this through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.