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Living in God’s House

May 27, 2013

A friend of mine gave me this verse to ponder.  “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.”  -Psalm 91

Essentially, it is saying, “he who lives in God’s house will find rest & protection there.”

That is so comforting!

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Living as part of a Royal family

April 30, 2013

Having just finished our Bible study on Ephesians, I’ve been pondering the verse, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,”  — Ephesians 4:1

Often, I like to look up the Greek definitions of words to try and gain a more full understanding of what is being said. If I were to paraphrase that verse it would say something like, “conduct one’s self in a suitable manner according to the divine invitation of which you were called”.

This whole concept of living or walking according to the fact that God has called us to be a part of His family led my imagination down the road to the Chronicles of Narnia stories.  I’m sure you are all familiar with the four Pevensie children who became the kings & queens of Narnia.  I love those stories!

And that led me to thinking about how future kings & queens of history were taught & trained as children for their future roals in governing over their kingdoms. They were taught grace & poise, strength & honor.  At least the good kings & queens.  I found an article on the Internet that said 16th century education for British kings & queens was regarded as extremely important and concentrated on balance and breadth between physical development, such as dancing, archery, hunting, and intellectual and moral education. A well-rounded personality was the aim. Thus many were taught Latin, Greek, Italian, French and the corresponding literature of those languages.  Being ready to take the throne and govern their country was serious business.

In Revelation 19, Jesus is called the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  We know from the Bible that Jesus will reign over all of heaven and earth. And He has called us to be joint heirs with Him in heaven.  That makes us part of His royal family.

When I think about God adopting us as part of his royal family, it makes me stop & think about all that education that was given to royal heirs in history. They were expected to act as royalty. They were expected to behave in a manner that was fitting for their station in life.  And then I wonder in humility that I am not living in a manner that is fitting for an heir of God.  More often, I am living as an impoverished, uneducated commoner.  Where is my grace & my dignity?  Where is the Fruit of the Spirit?

It’s hard to wrap my head around that notion that we are called to be heirs of God’s kingdom.  the Bible is our text book and the Holy Spirit is our teacher, teaching us how to act & behave as heirs of a king.  Maybe if I applied that understanding to my life more often my actions & my conduct would be different.

Therefore, let us walk worthy of the privilege to be called an heir of God’s family, and joint heirs with Christ. — Romans 8:17

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On Being Pruned

April 8, 2013

John 15:1-2, 8 says…  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that DOES bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear MORE fruit. […]  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.”

God’s pruning in our lives is never easy. But the Bible says that it must happen so that we may bear MORE fruit. It doesn’t say any fruit at all… there is already some fruit in our lives…  but that He desires more fruit to be produced in our lives.

It seems to me that God has been doing some heavy pruning in my life these last couple of years. He’s been pruning away my anger, my disappointment, and my hurt feelings of my childhood.  He’s been pruning the insecure & self-seeking actions at my work.  He’s been pruning my self-reliant nature so that am forced to lean on Him and trust Him with every detail of my life.  And it probably won’t be the last of the pruning.  But John says that it will bring glory to Him and that my life will produce much fruit from it.

Everyone that grows grapes knows that pruning is essential to the quantity & quality of grapes a vine produces. So I did a little research to learn more about the process of pruning grapes.  First of all, there are a variety of methods used to prune & train a grape vine.  The type of pruning depends on the variety of grapes.  But no matter which method is used the philosophy is the same. Pruning prevents the vine from growing too much foliage, which in turn, amounts to not enough fruit.

Aren’t we all God’s children yet each of us are different and unique? So too, God goes about pruning each of us in different ways.

Also, grapes bear fruit on the green shoots that come from one year old canes.  If the vine is left unattended it can become unruly, fruit production will be poor, and there will be an overproduction of vegetation or leaves.  The amount of pruning is dependent on the amount of vegetation produced during the previous growing season.  If there is not a proper amount of fruit load (grape clusters) to store the carbohydrates produced in the leaves, a grapevine will over-compensate with an increase in foliage. If the appropriate number of clusters is left on a grapevine, there should not be a lot of excess foliage produced, thus producing a good crop of fruit.

John tells us that God is our master vine dresser and he prunes us so that we may bear more fruit.  Fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control.  (Galatians 5:22) Is there an abundant amount of fruit in my life? Or an excess of foliage?  Is there a good crop of Galatians fruit?  Or is there an excess of the law or rules of Christianity which looks good on the outside, but no change in my heart? Either way, God’s gentle & skilled hand is pruning so that we will produce even more fruit.

A well-pruned vine is given maximum exposure to sunlight, air circulation & maintenance. These factors create an atmosphere that is less likely to harbor diseases or pests. So it takes a wise and experienced vine dresser to care for the vines in order to produce the best and largest amount of fruit with the least amount of disease or pests.

So too, we need to be given maximum exposure to God’s love & forgiveness, being maintained in his word and by his Holy Spirit so that we can produce the best kind of fruit.

The pruning guidelines on the Internet said that if the first year vine hasn’t grown above the first trellis wire during the previous year, then it needs to be cut back to just 3 buds and the previous year’s treatment is repeated. It says that this may sound drastic but necessary to establish a sound trunk.  It also says that Grape vines are vigorous and forgiving.

We too must have a sound foundation of God’s word established in our hearts.  Don’t be afraid of God’s pruning.  He is the master vine dresser and he knows just what needs to be done to create in us a firm foundation where much fruit will be produced in the years to come.  Let our hearts be vigorous and forgiving so that an abundant crop of love & joy & peace & patience will overflow to those around us, bringing glory to God, the keeper of our hearts.

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Wisdom from Above

July 22, 2011

I know it has been SO-O-O-O long since I have posted anything here.  And there probably isn’t anyone around anymore to listen.  But that’s OK.

A friend and I were talking the other day about what I have been learning in our Bible study in James. So, here you go. This is what has been on my mind lately.

Wisdom. What exactly is wisdom? Solomon asked for more. The world thinks it’s about making good decisions that help you get ahead. And we, as Christians, see it as seeking to know how to make the right decision.  The decision that keeps us out of trouble.

But it never occurred to me that true, Godly wisdom could be anything else until I was reading Chapter 3 in the book of James.

James asks “Who is wise and understanding among you?” I’m sure you, as I did, immediately thought of someone who seems to have it all together, who owns a nice home or drives a nice car. Someone who is well thought of in church or at work.  While all of these attributes are nice, I suddenly realized that this isn’t necessarily true, heavenly wisdom from above.

Verses 17-18 are what really made me think twice about what wisdom really is.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

Suddenly it dawned on me that wisdom isn’t just about making the “right” decision. In fact, it’s not really about making decisions at all. At least not in the everyday, living life, sense of decision-making.  But it is everything about making spiritual decisions. Decisions to love God, live in such a way that pleases him, giving our hearts wholly to him…  which does effect our daily living decisions. But the daily living decisions aren’t the goal or purpose for having or acquiring wisdom.

The real reason for seeking wisdom is to glorify God… for people to turn their hearts to Jesus… so that the “fruit of righteousness” may be sown and multiply. Wisdom is about showing God’s love and mercy to those who are seeking.  It’s about being obedient in our hearts to what God is asking us to do. It’s about giving up our own desires or dreams to live a comfortable life in order that we might point the way for others to find God’s grace and mercy in their own lives.

Do you see what I am getting at?

How different wisdom looks from this perspective! Suddenly I don’t have to be afraid to decide which job to work, or which house to buy, or which city to live in. Because I can live wisely in any job, in any house, in any city if my living is pleasing to God and pointing others toward him and his desire to forgive their sins and spend eternity with him.

God says perfect love casts out all fear. And his perfect love is full of perfect wisdom which takes away my fear of living in this imperfect world.  May He fill me with the wisdom that is first pure, then peaceable, gently & willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits!

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Outward Appearances

September 28, 2010

Do you ever look outside and think, “What a beautiful day! The sun is shining. It looks warm and inviting.” But then when you actually go outside the sun is deceiving and it’s colder than you thought. Or, what about the opposite… It looks gray and gloomy. It feels as if you should slip on your wool socks and a warm sweater only to discover that it’s really warm and humid.  And putting on a sweater would be the farthest thing from your mind. As I am reviewing my Bible study lesson on Luke, chapter 1 this week there seems to be this same sort of contrast going on. Not everything is as it looks from the outside.

Elizabeth, who is “well along in years” suddenly finds herself pregnant.  Verse 12 says that Zechariah’s prayers had been heard and that he and his wife will have a son and his name will be John.  Elizabeth, in verse 24, says “the Lord has taken away my disgrace.”

In contrast, Mary finds herself pregnant with the Son of God, the Messiah. While Elizabeth’s disgrace (from an outward view) has been removed by having a child, it’s likely that Mary now faces disgrace by having a child.  It’s possible that Zechariah could have been urged by friends & family to divorce Elizabeth because she was not able to give him children. Likewise, Joseph in Matthew 1 contemplates quietly divorcing Mary because of her pregnancy.  Both couples find themselves expecting a child and yet from the outside one circumstance looks favorable and the other looks disgraceful.  The Bible declares all of these men & women upright in God’s eyes yet the world sees them differently. Zechariah & Elizabeth were upright in the sight of God. Mary had found favor with God. Joseph was a righteous man.

How many times have our own lives, or the lives of those around us, appeared to look one way  and yet from God’s perspective completely different?  It’s certainly true that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.  And we can’t always judge the conditions of our lives or each others lives by their outward appearances.  It encourages me that God has a plan for each of our lives. We may not be able to see it. It might look really different on the outside. But if we could see it from God’s perspective, it would make perfect sense! My prayer is that we walk through life more like Mary and say, “I am the Lord’s servant,” regardless of what outward appearances may look like.

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Blessings

July 20, 2010

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” is a quote from the movie The Princess Bride.  Life is hard and dotted with painful circumstances, but we have a loving God.

I know it’s been more than a year since I’ve popped my head in over here. Lots going on, lots of growing and weeding, lots of tending in our lives.  Often I find it hard to express in words just what God is doing in our lives. But for some reason, I got the urge to write down some words this morning.

Last year in our Bible study we worked our way through the book of Revelation. It was NOT my first choice, but since it is in the Bible, you know, I ought to give it some time for study as well.  The middle of Revelation really bogged me down with all it’s symbolism, death, and destruction. It was depressing and frustrating.  Many times throughout the book, God says, “Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.” I kept praying that somewhere along the way I would discover the blessing.

I’m still not certain what the specific blessing might be. But I suspect that it might be as simple as this… The blessing that comes from reading Revelation is not about understanding who is the white horse, or what does that plague mean, or are we going to be raptured before, during or after the tribulation.  The blessing comes from knowing that even though one day God will judge the sins of the wicked, he desires that ALL will find forgiveness of their sins.  That he loves everyone of us. That he is a God of details. And that he is completely in control. He has not forgotten about his people, the people that he has created for his good pleasure.  But he desires us all to come to him, to trust in him, and find joy in him. If we keep that in mind throughout our life, we will discover the blessing.  Trials and tribulations will not take us by surprise when we know that God is right beside us and that he has all the details under control.  If he can orchestrate white horses and plagues and judgments all the while still desiring men to find him, then he can take care of the details of our lives.

Life often tries to suck the life out of me.  The disappointments, the struggles, the physical ailments.  But there is a God who is bigger than all of that.  I know I have said before that Hebrews 12:2 is sort of “my” verse. It’s the one that most often speaks to me when I am having a hard time.  I just need to “fix my eyes on Jesus” so that I will not grow weary and lose heart.

May you find a blessing in your day today.

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Nicodemus & Easter

April 13, 2009

It always surprises me how I can read the same passage in the Bible over and over and still miss small details.

Ironically, our Bible study lesson in Matthew this week was on the crucifixion of Jesus just as we are celebrating Easter and Jesus’ resurrection.  This week, we read about Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus preparing Jesus body and burying him in the tomb in Matthew, John and Luke, making notes about Joseph and Nicodemus.

Both Joseph and Nicodemus were members of the Council of the Pharisees that voted for Jesus to be condemned.  It is suggested that Joseph and Nicodemus were absent during this meeting since they both disagreed with the Council.  And it is likely that both Joseph and Nicodemus were secretly followers of Jesus, a small fact with which the Council would NOT have been pleased.

I never noticed that John 3:16 is a small sermon directed specifically to Nicodemus, given at night, in secrecy from the Council.  I’m sure the rest of the Pharisees would not have been happy to know that Nicodemus went directly to Jesus to ask about what it means to be born again.

It is fortunate for us that Nicodemus did have the courage to go ask Jesus and that their conversation was recorded in the Bible.  Jesus declares God’s great love for the world, demonstrated by giving his only son, Jesus, so that we may have eternal life.  A small sermon given to one man (I wonder if Jesus’ disciples were also present) now contains one of the most memorized Bible verses – “God so love the world, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

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