Sunday, July 26, 2015

Potato Bug Patrol


The sun was shining, the chickens were clucking, the horses were munching on hay and the clouds above were puffy as they floated high above.  There was a slight breeze cooling us as we dug in the dirt, pulled weeds and marveled at God’s handiwork.  There was life sustaining food growing beneath and above the soil.

Let me explain:  Charlie headed off to his annual canoe trip in Canada, so I headed out to the home/farm of friends who live on a peninsula (within an hour’s drive) that juts out into Lake Michigan.  Stonington Peninsula is a beautiful piece of real estate not discovered by the world in general and that is fine with those of us who live up here!  (Not that we don’t want to share….but then again, maybe we don’t want to share!)

I spent several days with my friend.  Her husband and son were off on their own adventure so it clearly was time for us womenfolk to take advantage of the kind of schedule women enjoy….eat when we are hungry, work in the garden, take gardening breaks to go kayaking, go blueberry picking, watch chick flicks at night and have endless conversation/fellowship.  

One of the jobs that became mine (and I really believe I now have bragging rights)….was potato bug patrol!  My friend asked me to walk among the rows of potato plants that grew abundantly with their scraggly branches reaching upward.  Because she uses no pesticides, the potato bugs have to be picked off…individually …by hand, and dropped into a bucket of water so they will cease to breathe (having no more access to the destruction of any potato plant)!

I’d like to share with you some observations I made while on “potato bug duty”:

1.     Potato bugs are bright, beautiful and colorful and they catch your eye.

2.     Sometimes, though, they are hidden inside of curled up leaves and on the undersides of leaves.  Whenever I saw one on the top of the plant, I learned to look in those “hidden” places.

3.     Potato bugs look a bit like lady bugs, and lady bugs are harmless.  I had to look carefully so I wasn’t fooled.

4.     If left unchecked, they multiply, munch away on the leaves and destroy the plant.

SIN is like those potato bugs and find a correlation between “potato bug patrol” and “sin patrol”:

1.      Sin is alluring, sometimes appearing to be bright and beautiful.  However, when I am determined to find sin in my heart, I can root it out through the power of the Holy Spirit living in me. 

2.     Like those potato bugs, sin can hide among the curled up leaves or hidden places in my heart.

3.     Often sin looks harmless and innocent, much like those potato bugs that resemble lady bugs.  How easy it is to rationalize sin, transforming it into something that appears harmless.

4.     If sin is left unchecked in my heart and life….undiscovered or without repentance, it will ultimately destroy my witness, my effectiveness as a follower of Christ and possibly damage important human relationships.

In the 15th. Chapter of the book of John, God uses the grapevine in a vineyard to help us understand a deeper lesson.  Jesus is the true vine.  When we confess Jesus as Lord of our lives, we are attached to the vine…to Him.  Because of that attachment, we have the capacity to bring His light into the world in unfathomable ways.  But to have the power to live the Christian life, we MUST stay attached to that vine (Jesus). 

 Sin (like the destructive potato bug) damages that connection (picture a healthy vine versus a withered, brown vine) and in John 15:2 we are told, “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.”

 I don’t know about you but I want to be on “potato bug/sin” patrol every day.  I want the “potatoes” (or whatever fruit God intends for me) to not only grow but produce a HUGE, ABUNDENT harvest through my life and ministy!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Rescued From the Storm

There is a story that has circulated on the internet that lends itself to today’s post.  I am taking the liberty of offering it up…again.

Mr. Smith lived in a part of the country that was getting deluged with torrents and buckets of rain.  It just kept coming and coming and before he knew it, the creek near his house was so swollen it overflowed its banks.

As the rains persevered, with no end in sight, the water crept closer and closer to Mr. Smith’s front door.  Soon it seeped under his doors and began to soak everything.  This situation was getting serious and Mr. Smith found himself experiencing fear for his safety. There was no phone service and the internet was completely down; in other words, he had no way to call for help.

Mr. Smith decided there was no better time to be praying for his rescue so he began in earnest.  He knew he worshipped a God of miracles and recalled the many stories in the Bible that spoke of God’s amazing rescues.
He crawled up to the roof and sat at the very top of his house, counting on God to produce His special miracle.

Soon, a man in a rowboat came by and told Mr. Smith to hop on.  “Oh no, he said.  God is going to save me.”  So the man in the rowboat went on to see if he could help someone else.  Next, a helicopter flew overhead, hovered above Mr. Smith and a ladder was thrown to him with instructions to climb up into it.  “Oh no, he said.  I am waiting on God to save me.”  Finally someone came by with a raft and life jacket and urged Mr. Smith to put on the jacket and jump on the raft.  By now you have probably guessed what Mr. Smith’s answer was!

The rains continued until the house was swept away, taking Mr. Smith with it and the inevitable happened…. he drowned.  Upon approaching the “pearly gates” he asked God, "Why didn’t you rescue me?!  (I know…you saw this coming; bear with me.)  God said, “Brother, I sent you a rowboat, a helicopter and a raft.  How did you think you were going to be rescued?”

All of us have either been through some kind of life “storm”….or one is just on the horizon. This life journey is never a comfortable, easy-to-navigate trip.  No matter how prepared we think we are, life can take us by surprise.  Storms have a way of shaking us up and showing us how in control we are.... NOT!

What storm do you face today?  Might it be a job loss and impending economic disaster?  A marriage that is stressed or a potential divorce?  A rebellious child or an addicted family member?  Or perhaps it is cancer or some other life threatening or debilitating illness.

The list is endless, isn’t it?

The real question is: can you identify God’s presence in the midst of the storm?  Is He possibly offering you a way out that doesn’t resemble the solution you may have imagined?  Maybe He is offering you a sense of peace in the midst of it all.

My life has included bouts of debilitating depression, infertility, child rearing issues, divorce, sin, remarriage, a church split, the deaths of family members.  However, it has also included God’s amazing grace and forgiveness, healing, gifts of Christian friends, redemption and restoration.

 Through my life’s storms (and sometimes I can only see this in hindsight) God has provided many avenues of rescue.  I have had other Christians come along side me to counsel me, pray with and for me, listen without judgment, dry my tears or just simply be available.   
 
Then there are the “hands on” answers to prayer such as monetary gifts, meals, transportation, childcare, modern medicine, health education…..and so much more!  Being a part of God’s family and journeying with other believers is a HUGE way God brings rescue and deliverance.

In Hebrews 13:5 God tells us, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.”    The writer of Hebrews is actually quoting from the Old Testament passage, Deut. 31:6.  Psalm 33:4 tells us God is faithful in all He does.  The entire Bible is the story of God’s faithfulness including countless stories of His "rescues"!

Maybe you have been in a very dark place, watching a loved one’s struggle at his/her end of life and it appears there is no “rescue” coming.  Really?  For the one who loves and serves Jesus, leaving this earth to live with the Lord forever is actually the greatest rescue of all!  There are days when the cry of my heart is, “Come, Lord Jesus, come”!  I look forward to His return!  Jesus stepped in that gap (created by our sin) between us and God and offered the best “rescue” ever! 

 
The next time you are in a dark or threatening storm, get into God’s Word, spend time in prayer and connect with other Christ followers.  Open your eyes to the beautiful ways God is working.  And keep in mind that always, in every situation: God is sovereign; He is sitting on His throne; He is working out His purposes. 

 

 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

How Hot is the Refiner's Fire?

Dear Readers,

Today I am posting a "guest blog", written by my friend, Nan Jones.  Nan is a pastor's wife, author and speaker.  We met at the Christian Communicator's Conference in NC last summer (Aug., 2014).  Recently Nan published a wonderful book called, The Perils of a Pastor's Wife.  It's an extraordinary, sensitive personal testimony that reaches beyond pastors' wives as an encouragement to all of us to see God in the midst of darkness.  (Book may be ordered through Amazon.com)  Following is an excerpt from her book:
 
Paul understood the beauty of sanctification. After all, isn't that what we're really talking about here? Becoming more Christ-like so that we might dwell with Him richly? That we might know Him and the fullness of His glory? To be set apart for God? Sharing in His suffering for the sake of righteousness purifies us and molds us into a vessel that can be filled to the brim with the Holy Spirit and then poured out upon a hurting and dying world.

Embrace these powerful words: Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried and chosen you in the furnace of affliction (Isaiah 48:10, AMP). Affliction. Suffering, pain, grief, misery, distress—sound familiar?

Ask the Lord to open the eyes of your heart to see and understand the compelling image I'm going to paint for you:

The silversmith wiped the sweat from his brow with the back of his calloused hand. The flames leaped in the bowels of the furnace, licking the air for oxygen, preparing to devour anything not pure enough to withstand its sweltering fury. 

Carefully, the old gentleman filled his stone "smithing" bowl with slivers and filings of discarded silver - throwaways deliberately chosen for the vessel he would craft. He placed them "just so" into the bowl and then eased it into the center of the flames where the heat was greatest.

This was necessary to burn away anything impure.

Only the finest silver would do for the vessel the Master silversmith would shape after the refining fire.

The old man reached for his chair. His fingers, black with soot, grasped the chair's carved back and pulled it closer to the furnace. He sat down, never taking his eyes off the silver that was now beginning to melt and swirl in the inferno.

The silversmith knew the exact moment to remove the silver - a second too long, and it would be destroyed. He kept a careful eye - watching, waiting - looking for that moment when the impurities were gone.

At last, the dross pulled away from the silver. The silversmith eased the stone bowl out of the flames. He peered into the liquid luster. Reflected back to him, as in a mirror, was his own image.

The old gentleman knew the refining fire had completed its work.

The silver was pure. It shone with the brightness of the morning star. It reflected it's Master's image. Now the vessel for which it was intended could be shaped and molded by the Master's hand.


Are you in the throes of suffering now? Is the anguish of your heart threatening to suffocate you? The Master knows. He keeps a careful watch over you, governing the trial and adjusting the flame so you won't be eternally marred or destroyed by its pain.

The Lord is honored by your willingness to endure this trial by fire for the sake of His Kingdom.

His eyes are on you.

His eyes are on me.

I find great comfort in that knowledge.

And, because David and I have suffered on behalf of the gospel, God's Kingdom on earth has been advanced. That also comforts me. You, my friend, can say the same. We're bonded to Christ because we've suffered for Him.

Could there be any greater honor on earth than to be used by God to bring the saving  knowledge of Jesus - the extraordinary love of God - to a broken soul?

I think not.
 

 


 

This is an excerpt taken from 

The Perils of a Pastor's Wife 

released June 30th. 

This passage is taken from chapter four, 

The Fellowship of His Sufferings: The Peril of Rose-Colored

Glasses.

 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Freedom and Liberty

 


BANG!  BOOM!  SIZZLE!  Those words somewhat describe the sounds coming from outside my bedroom window as I wrestled with sleep last night.  Do I live in a war zone?  Thankfully, no.  Today is the Fourth of July and the world around me is celebrating! 

My lovely town here in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is full of flag-waving, America loving citizens and this is the holiday that gives full voice to long held patriotic sentiments.  Parades, fireworks, backyard barbeques….and so much more!

For our war veterans, this holiday might bring on feelings filled with angst as well as joy; a Viet Nam veteran once told me how everyone laughed when he dove under a picnic table at a family gathering when someone lit a firecracker.  Not so funny for my friend.

And, of course, we have a few people throughout our country who seem to thrive on naysaying and denigrating the great history of the U.S.A.  It’s clear those folks don’t have a true picture of what God was doing when He established this country through the work of our founding fathers.  Our founders were flawed men but they had a God given vision; God equipped them to make that vision a reality.

And then there are those Americans, who (like me) get a lump in their throats when our beautiful red, white and blue flag is flying and the national anthem is sung with vigor and gusto.

However, there is looming a dark side.  Many of us have great concern that our freedoms are disappearing.  Our country has lost its moorings by asking God to disappear from its national identity.  We are fast becoming a nation no longer reliant on God….well we actually are and always will be, but we behave as though He is irrelevant.  Many of us who follow Christ are also looking at Biblical prophecy and wondering where we actually are on God’s timeline.

But there is GOOD NEWS in all of this! God is sovereign; He is sitting on His throne; He is working out His purposes. When we give our hearts and lives to Jesus, we are FREE!  We are free from the shackles of sin; yes, we still struggle with sin but we now have the power to conquer sin.  When we become a part of God’s family, we know for sure that our final home will be with Him!  He gives us that assurance in His Word.

Jesus says in John 8: 31(b), 32: “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  When we are followers of Christ, we are His disciples and no matter what is happening around us, God promises to bring us through the storms.

I LOVE the 23rd Psalm….such an accurate, truth-filled picture of what it is to walk with the Lord.  Verse 4 says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  Sometimes death is more than a “shadow”; it becomes a reality.  But when we die knowing Christ, we shed only this body.  Physical death actually becomes a transition to our forever home.

This IS a special holiday but beyond the fireworks and parades there is a promise of greater freedom than we can even imagine.   That freedom is found in none other than Jesus Christ.  Won’t you join me and other followers of Christ as we journey together….in freedom?