The Crabapple Tree

Crabapples up closeThe first hints of spring always remind me of the lovely crabapple tree which graced the front yard of our previous home.  With the first breaths of warmth you could almost see the tree stretching her branches and within days little green leaves would pop out in response to the welcome sun.   Soon after, cheerful white blossoms burst forth like lightly buttered popcorn in glorious announcement of a new season of growth.

Not Promising

We first moved into that house in July.  Our first introduction to the tree was not promising. A gnarly trunk, shoots sprouting out of the ground all across the yard, a tangle of leafy boughs, and tall, skinny, leafless branches jutting helter-skelter from various junctions in the tree greeted us.  There were few signs of coming apples, and those wild shoots absorbed the nutrients from the lawn leaving patchy spots all over.

 Visions of Crabapples

I’ve always figured that if God provides something, He would like you to use it. Before me was the anticipation of a crop of crabapples.  “Hmm. What DOES one make out of crabapples?”  After some research (in pre-internet days I might add) I had visions of crabapple juice and crabapple jelly and crabapple sauce and crabapple crisp – you get the idea.

This Tree Needs Some Serious Pruning

Bud worked his way through college as a landscaper.  He shook his head as he looked at the crabapple tree and told me, “That tree needs some serious pruning!  You’re not going to have any crabapples to make anything with unless this tree is pruned.”  “And” he added, “You probably will not like the way it looks when I first prune it.”

And boy, did he prune it!  When he called me out to look at his work I was horrified.  No shoots, no boughs, no skinny branches and no leaves were left, only three sad looking stumpy, naked branches protruded from the trunk.  “You’ve killed my tree!”  I gasped.

 Without Pruning, No Apples

Then my husband explained the purpose of pruning.  The gardener plucks, cuts, and pulls away all of the useless growth which sucks nourishment away from the tree.  Instead of drawing nutrients to help apples grow, my out-of-control crabapple tree was using up energy to grow sprouts and shoots which would never bear fruit.  Left untouched, the tree would never produce a proper crop of apples as it was designed to do.

 Delightful Results of Pruning

The first year after pruning the tree had amazingly begun to grow back, but still needed shaping and more pruning.  There weren’t many apples that year, but the tree and lawn looked much better.  However the second year, and the years after that, the tree was well-shaped, and full of apples, delighting us each spring with its blossoms, and blessing us each autumn with ample fruit.

 Spiritual Pruning

Sometimes we forget that we are under the care of the Master Gardener.  We find ourselves spending our time and energy on unprofitable pursuits and the Lord needs to step in and ‘prune’ us.  He cuts and trims and shapes us to be more conformed to the image of Christ.

These past few months of unresolved health issues have helped me to think about this process more.  Before my mobility challenges I filled my time with ‘doing’ things in the Christian community.  My health issues have forced me to think more about ‘being’ in a proper relationship with God and allow Him to make clear what He wants me to do with the limited time and energy I end up with.

 Cutting Away Useless Things

A number of useless things have been stripped away these past months – from my thinking, my behavior, and my ministries.  Instead God has been teaching me to ‘Be still, and know that I am God.”  I am more careful now to go to Him in prayer for others and for direction on what He wants me to do.

 Fruit-Bearers for Him

Sometimes we just wish God would leave us alone and stop all of the painful pruning He brings into our lives.  But this would not be the consistent with His character.  By stripping away all of the useless branches which waste our time and energy, God is shaping us to be fruit-bearers for Him.  By God’s grace when seasons of pruning come to our lives we can honor God, learn the lessons He has for us, and be a blessing to the body of Christ.

Prairie Pride

Snow in the darkBlizzard!

The snow swirled angrily around us as we inched along a remote western Canadian highway in the darkened solitude of a late December evening. Returning from my father’s funeral in Ohio, our third parent to die in six months, we were oh-so-weary and yearning for home.  Soon the winds began to howl, driving the blinding snow across an obliterated prairie landscape.  A blizzard!  Bud could no longer see anything but white; we had to get off the road and stay off until the storm passed.

Following the reddish blur of a 16 wheeler’s taillights we pulled into a parking lot where a bevy of truckers were gathered discussing the blizzard. “Supposed to last all night.”  “They’ve closed the road ahead due to zero visibility.”  “Guess we’ll park here and wait out the storm.”

Prairie Pride

Behind a dimly lit old convenience store was an equally dimly lit derelict building bearing a flickering sign  ‘Prairie Pride Motel.’[1]  Even through the snowy blast it was obvious that whatever pride had once been there was long gone. I was dubious about getting a room in such a run-down looking place, but Bud had been driving for over twelve hours and was exhausted.  And we certainly did not want to sleep in the car during a blizzard.

A single light bulb swinging crookedly from a wire in the ceiling threw wisps of light across the narrow interior hallway. Scraped and scuffed, the room doors hung loosely from their hinges, as if the slightest puff of wind would dislodge them from their frames.  A skeletal middle-aged woman, cigarette dangling from her lips, ignored us as she carelessly slouched over the cleaning cart she propelled down the hall.  This was not promising.

Where’s the Pride?

Well, we reasoned, maybe the rooms themselves were in better shape.  Ha! Ever watch one of those spy movies where the hero has to hide out in a decrepit old building in some bleak place like Siberia?  A set designer could not have created a more convincing setting for that kind of scene than our lodgings that night.

Our room was ‘decorated’ in early garage sale with no two pieces of furniture or linens matching anything else.  A microwave with the glass door bashed in sat on a rickety table and two double beds slumped against opposite walls.  Totally worn out, Bud dropped onto one of beds and fell asleep.

Our daughters lead me over to the overstuffed armchair.  “Here, Mom, you rest while we tidy up.” Gratefully I sank down in it…all the way to the floor!  Choking down our laughter (we did not want to wake Bud up!) I thrust my arms up while the girls each grabbed an arm and, with Herculean effort and a modicum of noise, hauled me out of the chair.

Still Looking for that Pride

I wanted to freshen up after the long drive but the bathroom …..well let’s just say some abandoned gas stations had cleaner bathrooms than this place.  I carefully examined the well-worn face cloth and took the plunge to wash my face and hands.  No way was I getting into the shower which was a graveyard to generations of entomological specimens and boasted multiple layers of dirt.

After shoving a rickety chair up under the doorknob (at least the clattering chair would wake us up if someone huffed and puffed and blew the door in!) I gingerly sat on the edge of the bed trying to figure out how to lie down without rolling to the middle or disturbing my husband. My weary mind finally settled on a plan – balance my torso on the very edge of the mattress and hang an arm and a leg off the bed so I would not roll to the middle. (OK – here I tried not to think about what might be under the bed that would find dangling appendages enticing.) The girls covered me with my coat (no way was I going to sleep between the sheets!) while I tried to settle in for some rest.

This Place Did Not Live Up to Its Name

The stuffy room reeked of smoke so, despite the bitter cold, our daughters opened the window.  Ah! Fresh air!  A parking lot light brightened  the room allowing me to watch with weary amusement as the two girls finally laid down to get some sleep, each promptly rolling to the middle of the bed while the sides of the mattress flipped up engulfing them like a giant tortilla.

Arms and legs thrashing about they finally figured out how to balance themselves so sleep might be possible.  Soon all was silent…..for a few moments.  Two truckers walking around outside stopped directly under our open window and began arguing – loudly.  What a night!

We slept fitfully that night and were relieved to find the storm had passed before we drove off early the next morning.  A parting irony was the hand-scribbled sign taped to the office door:  ‘No Vacancy – (Tonight Only.)’  As if!

We Bear the Sign ‘Christian’

Since that experience our family has used the phrase ‘Prairie Pride’ to describe anything which sounds like one thing but delivers something entirely different. Not one thing about that location offered anything which a typical traveler would call pride.

I began thinking about how we can wear the sign of ‘Christian’ and yet sometimes not live or act as Christians should.  Like it or not people hold us to a higher standard when they know we are believers.

And they should, and so should we.  Our standard is God’s Word.  Not culture, not personal opinion, not ‘flavor of the day’ theological ideas, but the Word of God.  We are to model ourselves after the person of Christ and be Christians, or ‘little Christs.”

Is Your Sign a Joke?

snow

When we saw the ‘Prairie Pride’ sign we had certain expectations that some pride would be taken in how our room looked.  When that was not the case the name seemed to be a joke. When others see the ‘sign’ Christian, what do they expect?  Something that follows a biblical standard.  What do they actually see? Are we a joke to them because we say we are Christians and behave in an ungodly way?

We should not be surprised when someone rejects Christ and Christianity because of Christians’ blatantly ungodly choices.  Let’s NOT be like that.  We need to ask God to help us live out our name Christian in every aspect of our lives.  Unlike the Prairie Pride which did not live up to its name, by God’s grace we can be Christians who do live up to theirs!


[1] There are several reputable (and clean) motels bearing the same name.

Thanks for Your Godly Influence, Mom!

Janet Zook circa 1950 001It’s funny how the older you get, the more you appreciate your parents. Today would have been my mother’s 83rd birthday.  I wish she was still here for me to talk with, and thank, and ask all of those questions about her life that I never thought to ask when she was living.

I Learned a Lot from My Mom

I learned a lot from my mom.  She wasn’t perfect and she would be the first one to tell you that.  But she loved the Lord and tried to serve Him with every fibre of her being.

Mom taught me many practical things:  make your bed before breakfast; turn out the light when you leave a room; close the door when you come in; work hard; recycle; do your chores first; enjoy God’s natural beauty; don’t fight with your sister. (Sorry sis, I did not do very well with this when we were young. Love you!)

My mother was very organized.  Before her marriage she had been secretary to the president of a company.  Dad with his military background teasingly alternated between calling her the General and Sarge.  Mom was thrifty, kept everything clean – loved to do laundry and hang it outside to dry (saves money and smells better) – kept impeccable finances, and was a stickler for punctuality.

“Look It Up!”

Mom would type our papers for us as long as we had the piece word perfect and would dictate the entire thing to her as she typed.  No composing on the fly for us and absolutely no help with spelling.  “Mom, how do you spell ____?”  “Look it up. The dictionary is on the coffee table.”  Now to my childish mind that did not seem logical.  How can I look up how to spell it if I don’t know how to spell it?  Well guess what?  Not only did my spelling improve, so did my vocabulary and skill in using resource materials.

She had a whole stable of these pithy sayings she would throw out when we were trying to wheedle our way out of or into something.  “Mom, can I do (something ridiculous or dangerous)?”  Then I would make the big mistake of saying, “Everybody else is doing it.”  She would shoot back, “If everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you jump off too?  Of course not.”  And then to ensure we had something profitable to occupy our time she would add something like, “Now go weed the garden.”

Spiritual Influence

The biggest influence mom had on me was spiritual.  My mother was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 29.  It threw her life and marriage into a tizzy. She tried to find herself by studying with a cult but my dad sensed something false in it and forbade her from continuing.

In His providence God placed Christian neighbors on both sides of our house.  One day while chatting over the hedge, our neighbor lady told mom that she needed the Lord.  Mom started going to church with this lady and trusted Christ as her Savior from sin.  She started taking my sister and me to church with her, and one Sunday after church mom lead me to the Lord.

Mom’s illness was severe and though she was very careful and very regimented, it was extremely hard to control.  While her illness limited her at times, it never defined her.  Mom’s practice was to be church for all of the services.  Even as she struggled with the effects of cancer in her last years, Mom was in church until she could no longer go anywhere.

Saved to Serve

During our growing up years my mother served the body of Christ.  She would teach Sunday School, host neighborhood Bible clubs, teach VBS, entertain missionaries, help in ladies groups and serve in the choir.  After my sister and I were grown, Mom began selling Tupperware.  At one time she was number eight in sales for the entire US but always clearly told her co-workers and clients she was doing the job to help support missionaries and would never hold a Tupperware party on Wednesday nights or Sundays so she could be in God’s house.

Small Spaces – Large Devotion

The biggest example my mom left with me was that of devotion to God.  Our house was tiny.  Aside from the living room, kitchen and laundry area there were two little bedrooms, one very small bathroom, no attic, and no basement.  My dad worked shift work and would often be sleeping while the rest of us were awake. Finding a place to be alone with the Lord was a challenge for Mom.  She bought a narrow, short bookcase and placed it in the bathroom.  In it she placed her Bible, devotional books, hymnal and missionary prayer letters.  Mom would rise early, lock herself in the bathroom and meet with the Lord.  Every day.  Without fail.

A godly heritage.  A godly example.  A godly mother. I’m grateful for this blessing.  Much of this was done before my father ever professed Christ.    Thanks for all you taught me mom.  I pray that we can have the same kind of influence on our children. Wish I could tell you face to face……..someday I will!

He Is Not Here; for He Is Risen!

Jerusalem Graden Tomb sign

The Garden Tomb

Visiting the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem was my highlight of our tour to the Holy Land.  Our site guide gathered the group and before the tour started and gave a clear gospel message interspersed with cultural facts and archeological information.  Walking through the well-groomed gardens brought amazing clarity to my previously fuzzy impressions of the biblical setting of the resurrection.

Earlier in the day we stopped at Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives and read the scriptures describing Christ’s agony in prayer as He anticipated the cup of suffering and separation from the Father facing Him. Such a sobering reminder of His submission to the plan of redemption for mankind!

Good Preaching

What a blessing it has been to hear messages on each of the seven sayings from the cross these past few weeks!  The reminder of Christ’s fulfilling Old Testament scriptures and considering the needs of others, all while experiencing the humility and excruciating pain of crucifixion, helps us to better reflect on the great price that was paid for our redemption.

He is not here; for He is risen!

Jerusalem at Garden Tomb

Jerusalem Tomb entrance at Garden TombThough seeing the garden and the hill of Golgotha was impressive, the most joyous moment was stepping down into the empty tomb.  ‘He is not here; for He is risen!’  My heart overflowed with gratitude as I stood inside that empty tomb and realized anew that Christ had broken the bonds of sin and death on my behalf!

One of my favorite newer hymns is ‘His Robes for Mine’ by Chris Anderson and Greg Habegger.  The hymn, full of rich theology, speaks to the heart of every believer who has accepted this undeserved exchange. Hallelujah!  What a Savior!

His Robes for Mine

His robes for mine: O wonderful exchange!

Clothed in my sin, Christ suffered ‘neath God’s rage.

Draped in His righteousness, I’m justified.

In Christ I live, for in my place He died.

 

Chorus:

I cling to Christ, and marvel at the cost:

Jesus forsaken, God estranged from God.

Bought by such love, my life is not my own.

My praise-my all-shall be for Christ alone.

 

His robes for mine: what cause have I for dread?

God’s daunting Law Christ mastered in my stead.

Faultless I stand with righteous works not mine,

Saved by my Lord’s vicarious death and life.

 

His robes for mine: God’s justice is appeased.

Jesus is crushed, and thus the Father’s pleased.

Christ drank God’s wrath on sin, then cried “‘Tis done!”

Sin’s wage is paid; propitiation won.

 

His robes for mine: such anguish none can know.

Christ, God’s beloved, condemned as though His foe.

He, as though I, accursed and left alone;

I, as though He, embraced and welcomed home!

Bearing One Another’s Burdens

Bear One Another's BurdensDay of Prayer

Saturday we’re having a day of prayer at the church. This provides an opportunity for the church family to set aside distractions, meet together, and pray for each other and for the needs of our church.

If you do not have other obligations, please try to come, if even for part of the time.  Shy about praying? Come and join in as others pray.

Bear Your Own Burdens

Last week’s post brought up some questions about what it means for a church family to share the burdens and blessings of its members.  How do we bear one another’s burdens and show compassion for the body of Christ we have been placed in?

Bearing burdens does mean that you dump your worries, concerns and problems onto someone else and expect him to fix everything for you.  Galatians 6:5 reminds us that ‘every man shall bear his own burden.’

Remember, God allows troubles to either correct us or to teach us. He promises He will not give us more than we can bear. (1 Corinthians 10:13) and promises that these things are to glorify God and cause Christian growth in the believer. (2 Corinthians 4:17.)

Bear One Another’s Burdens

But we are also instructed to bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2) There are times when we are so overwhelmed by heartache, sadness, grief, disappointment, or fear that we need others to pray with us as we go through a trial.  God wants us to ‘rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.’  (Romans 12:15)  People do not know to pray for you if you do not let them know that you need prayer.

We have many first generation Christians in our church.  A number of them have been saved for only a few months and are excited to learn about Christ and godly living.  These dear brothers and sisters live their joys and trials in front of us.  If someone is having a rough week their burden is shared with the church family so we can all join in and pray with them.

Our pastors encourage a transparency which is both refreshing and challenging.  If I am struggling with something in my life and share that with others, won’t that case them to be discouraged?  I kind of had that idea for a long time.  If you are in leadership, you should appear as if you have it all together, regardless of any struggles you may be having.

Without Me Ye Can Do Nothing

How does that model dependency on Christ?  It doesn’t!  If others cannot see that leaders as well as the average church attender must depend totally on Christ, we are not pointing people in the right direction.  Christ tells us in John 15:5, “Without me ye can do nothing.”  Nothing.   Not one thing.

How to Connect with the Church Family

So what’s involved in bearing one another’s burdens?

Get to know one another.  Come to church.  Come to prayer meeting.  Invite people over or out for coffee.  Participate in special meetings, studies, and events sponsored by the church.  Take a few moments to talk with people after church.  We’re not typically going to meet someone and have them immediately pour out their burdens for us to share.  It takes a bit of time and effort to connect to people in the church.

If you are prevented from regularly attending church, ask for the church prayer sheet.  Contact one of the pastors and ask for your requests to be included on the weekly prayer sheet.   Make this a reciprocal ministry – you ask others to pray for your burdens, and you pray for theirs.  Make sure you understand enough to know who and what you are praying for.  Ask for updates when you see that person.  (If it’s something too personal just ask for an unspoken prayer request to be remembered – God knows what it is!)

Praying throughout the Day

Some people make lists and divide requests so some are prayed for each day.  Others pray for urgent matters of health and safety and others may remember requests as God brings a person or situation to mind.  When I am unable to sleep at night I often ask God if there is someone specific He wants me to pray for.  I pray as I drive along in the car or as I’m busy with mundane chores at home.  It’s not an exact science – we just need to be talking with God throughout the day.

So as we refine this process of showing compassion to each other by bearing one another’s burdens, let’s ask God to help us model our dependency on Christ as by praying for the needs of others as we ask them to pray for us.

Be Still and Know that I Am God

Be Still

Be Still and Know that I Am God

This was written in response to the struggles that many in our church family have encountered lately.

The Blessing of our Church Family

I love our church family.  More than any other church I have ever been a part of, our church family shares not only the blessings, but the burdens on the hearts of the members.  There is so little judgmentalism and so much compassion for what others are going through.

But it does not stop at compassion.  Our pastors, by teaching and example, have shown the family how to bear one another’s burdens scripturally. Sin is not condoned.  Instead, if someone is struggling with a sin habit, he is pointed to scripture and urged to draw upon Christ to overcome the problem.  When we share our burdens and struggles, we know others are praying for us.

Burdens and Trials

This past Sunday I became aware that an unusual number of the church family were wrestling with major trials.  Some were temptations to sin, some were relationship issues, some were health and personal trials.

That morning I prayed quickly with several of my friends before the service. Later in the day the Lord provided an answer to one of my own unspoken requests, but not in the way I was hoping or anticipating.  I was sad and asked God to help me wait on Him for a resolution to my prayer.

Scriptures and Hymns Bring Comfort

In answer He brought several things to mind for me to meditate on.  First, He again asked me to “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) He knows the end of a thing as clearly as the beginning.  Can I not depend on Him to work the entire thing out for my good and His glory?  Too often I’m like a dog on a leash who either dashes ahead straining and choking on its collar, or sits down and refuses to obey when the master says it’s time to move.

He also reminded me of Katharina von Schlegel’s wonderful hymn which beautifully reflects the teaching of Psalm 46:10.

Be Still My Soul – A Hymn for the Hurting

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side.
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future, as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice Who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessèd we shall meet at last.

God Has the Answers!

He has the best interest of His children at heart.  It may not be what we want, or hoped for, or planned, or anticipated, but it is what is best for us.  He truly is ‘our best, our heavenly friend’ who orders our lives and provides all that is essential for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) He can be totally and absolutely depended on!

Are you struggling with temptation to sin?  Ask Him to show you that way of escape He has promised.  At the end of your rope in a relationship conflict?  Plead with God to give the wisdom He promises. Burdened by lack of provision?  Call upon God to show an unbelieving world that the Heavenly Father ‘supplies all your need.’ Discouraged, grieved, or afraid?  Lay it all before the Lord and tell Him you need Him to walk with you and sustain you with strength, courage, peace and joy as you go through your valley.

But most of all, we need to cease our struggles, ‘be still’, and KNOW that He is God!

Blind Thoughts

Blind Thoughts

This is the third in the trilogy of posts on “blind things.”

What an Imagination!

I love the Anne of Green Gables books.  Anne (with an e) Shirley was constantly inspired to discover things that provided ‘scope for the imagination.’  And what an imagination she had!  Sometimes her imagination comforted her, sometimes it motivated her, but sometimes it got her into big trouble.

The problem with having a good imagination is that you can let your thoughts blindly run away in a direction that does not please God.  Blind thought are not biblically sound and can get us in trouble just as they did our famous fictional heroine.

Our children used to demonstrate wild imaginations when they were young and we were training them to work hard and obey us.  We’d tell the five of them to spend the afternoon raking up the back yard.  Their father would emphasize that the job had to be done before they could eat supper.  Bottom line:  they had to work together and finish the job in the time allotted.   As they grabbed the rakes and leaf bags the questions would begin.  “What if a tornado comes and blows us all away and we can’t finish?”  (No excuses.  You have to finish no matter what.) What if it gets dark before we’re done? (Work faster.)  What if a pack of wild dogs runs into the yard and messes up all our piles of leaves so we can’t get done on time? (Don’t let wild dogs into the yard.)  “What if I get so many blisters that my hands swell up and fall off…twice?” (Wear gloves.)

My Thoughts or God’s Thoughts?

I have to confess that at times my thoughts have also mounted the horse of ‘what ifs’ and galloped off into wild possibilities without first stopping to ask God  to direct me or give me wisdom.  Instead of praying we panic; instead of asking questions we assume the worst.

Don’t we do this sometimes when we have an illness?  We convince ourselves that we have a serious illness when we haven’t even been to the doctor yet to have things checked out. Our thoughts run away with us and a common cold becomes a fatal illness in our minds.

When we are separated from loved ones, either by distance or by death, we can fixate on what we have lost and ignore our daily duties.  We can long for things to be different, for our loved ones to be near us, so that we do not focus on reality.  We need to remind ourselves that we can grieve, but not as those who have no hope.

After our circumstances are altered – job change, move to a new town, a friend who turns her back on us, a long term illness – we can be tempted to relive the past , looking longingly back like Lot’s wife,  so that we miss today’s blessings.  By God’s grace we need to focus on all that we do have, not on the things which have been removed.

Take Every Thought Captive

2 Corinthians 10:5 reminds us we are to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” We also train our minds to meditate on proper and godly thoughts (Philippians 4:8-9 ) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

A good imagination under God’s control is a good thing, but blind thoughts can take us to a place where we do not honor the Lord. With God’s help we can set aside blind thoughts and allow the Holy Spirit to shape our thinking so that it glorifies God.

Blind Faith

Blind Faith

Blind Faith

Learning from the Major and Minor Prophets

While reading through the prophets I noticed they were often called upon by God to do hard and unusual things as an example or warning for the children of Israel.  The prophets exemplified blind faith, a complete trust in something or someone. For the believer blind faith is the unwavering belief that God will deal righteously with us according to His character.  Though we can’t see Him with our physical eyes, we read His Word and believe Him when He tells us ‘all things work together for good for them who love God,’ or ‘God is love,’ or ‘I will never leave thee or forsake thee.’  These acts of complete obedience which the prophets modeled (in contrast with examples like Jonah) exhibit blind faith in the all-powerful, never-changing One.

There are many Old Testament examples of prophets performing these difficult signs.  Ezekiel was instructed to lie on his left side side (without turning) for 390 days then on the right side for 40.  God told Jeremiah to wear an animal yoke as a warning to the Israelites, but also told him the Israelites would not listen to the warning.  Hosea married a prostitute on God’s orders.  At God’s instruction Nathan stood before King David and told a story of theft, murder, and injustice.  When David angrily demanded the perpetrator be punished, Nathan unflinchingly condemned David with the proclamation, “Thou art the man!”

More Examples

Other Bible characters were called upon directly by God to do hard things.  Abraham was told to pack up his considerable household and go to an undisclosed land which God would show him.  Moses was given the thankless task of facing the ever hard-hearted Pharaoh to demonstrate God’s power against the false gods of Egypt.  Moses was further tasked with leading the grumbling, untrusting Israelites out of Egypt and through the desert in their delayed quest to reach the Promised Land.   Mary faced wagging tongues and misunderstanding as she humbly accepted God’s proclamation that she would carry, bear and raise the Christ child.  These believers responded positively to what God asked them to do simply because they believed in God and wanted to be obedient to Him.

Some had God-honoring responses to their circumstances in spite of not understanding ahead of time that God had a purpose in what was happening to them.  Job lost all ten of his children at once, followed immediately by the loss of all his wealth and his health.  Rebecca met a stranger at her local well who told her she was God’s provision as a wife for Isaac and that she needed to leave the comforts of her homeland right away to travel to this man.  Elijah, after defeating the prophets of Baal, was discouraged because he thought he was the only person left who stood for God.  He was so exhausted with the recent spiritual warfare that he asked God to let him die.  Instead, God protected him in a cave, provided food and sleep for His prophet, and told him of 700 others who had not bowed the knee to Baal.

Our Blind Faith Has a Solid Foundation

Our faith in God is never misplaced.  We may not understand all of the details of why something is happening to us, or we may be called on to do something that is very hard, but our blind faith is not a faith without foundation.  We have seen God change our lives and the lives of others through the salvation He offers in Christ. We have prayed to the great I AM and witnessed specific and sometimes miraculous answers from the King of Kings.  No, our faith is not blind in the sense of some wild maybe hope that God will do what He promises.  It is placed fully in Jehovah, the same yesterday, today and forever who assures us ‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.’  (Hebrews 11:1, 6) By God’s grace let us strive to seek Him and obey Him wholeheartedly. 

Blind Spots

Blind SpotsThanks for your patience

This is my first post in several months.  I have been dealing with some debilitating health issues and want to thank everyone who has been praying for me.  Through the oversight of a wonderful family doctor, and by God’s grace,  I am learning to make positive health changes.  Recently I’ve seen some improvement in my health, and I thank God for it.  

During these months of being set aside I have had to “be still and know that I am God.”  God has brought to my attention some areas in my life that needed correcting.  These blind spots, some of them long-standing, prompted the thoughts for this post.

If you are part of my Lighthouse Baptist Church family, you will notice that some of the upcoming posts are duplicates of the ‘Lights for Ladies’ on the church’s Facebook page.

Blind Spots

You’ve probably heard someone say, “Of course I’m quick-tempered – I’m a redhead!”    That sort of thinking is simply justifying sinful behavior.  Thoughtful people can see that statement is the result of wrong thinking.

But what about us?  Have you ever had an ‘aha’ moment when you have realised that something you have been doing or thinking has been a real blind spot in your life?  I have.  Maybe it’s a habit, or a thought pattern, or a characteristic, but it’s something we regularly indulge in and somehow do not think of as being wrong.

A Christian’s goal is to glorify God in everything.  We should be praying that God would change us and conform us to the image of Christ. In answer to that prayer God may reveal some blind spots in our behaviour.  Discovering things about ourselves that are real flaws or hindrances can be very painful.

What should we do once a blind spot has been revealed to us?  There is a temptation to respond emotionally by indulging in the feelings of, “How could I have been so blind to this fault?” or “Why couldn’t I see this before?”  Instead of wallowing in these negative emotions we need to ask God to help us overcome the blind spot, as well as the negative emotions, in His power.  We need to be careful not to become so introspective that we no longer focus on God and His will for us.

God offers forgiveness – accept it and go on, but understand there are sometimes consequences for the behavior caused by our blind spots.  We need to be willing to deal honestly with possible consequences in the power of God.  But most of all we need to go on.

By finally recognizing a blind spot we can rejoice that a loving heavenly Father cares enough to help us become more like the Son.  Thank God for the opportunity to serve Him and grow in Him when He brings these blind spots to our attention.

Choosing Delight – My Walk with God

This session was recently prepared for the pastors’ wives at the National Church Planters’ Conference in Mentor Ohio, sponsored by ARCH Ministries.  These sessions were adapted from my ladies’ Sunday School series on Biblical Womanhood created for Meadowlands Baptist Church of Edmonton.

Choosing Delight

Spending time each day with God in personal study, prayer, and worship is called by many names including:  a walk with God, having devotions, meeting with the Lord, spending time with God, or having a quiet time.

When we spend time privately communing with God do we delight in that time together?  Why, do you ask, are you addressing pastor’s wives on this topic?  Aren’t they among the spiritual giants of the church who don’t need to hear this?  I may be ‘preaching to the choir’ but in my years in ministry this spiritual practice has at times been a struggle for me and other missionary and pastor’s wives due to our busy schedules and the burdens of the ministry.  It’s profitable for us to be reminded not only of our need to walk with God, but to also delight in it.

My devotional time is a specific time set aside each day to meet with God for the purpose of communicating with our Lord – to listen to what He has to say to us through the Bible, and to talk with Him in prayer.  The goal of a daily devotional time is to worship God and to grow in the Lord – to adjust our thinking and behavior- as we read how He expects us to conduct ourselves as believers in this world. Too many times we can find ourselves, as my former pastor’s wife used to say,  “dragging our eyeballs across the page” when reading God’s word, and not deriving any benefit from it.

So how can we delight in our walk with God?  First, we need to define what the word “delight” means.   The definition of delight is: to give great pleasure or, a high degree of gratification[1]; to take great pleasure or joy[2].  The scriptures speak of God delighting in His children and of believers delighting in God.  Do we take great pleasure in spending time with God?

God Delights in Us and We Delight in Him

God delights in the obedience of His children.  Who can forget the scathing words of Samuel the prophet to Saul as the disobedient king tries to justify his actions?  “Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22.)  We are told several times in the Proverbs that God delights in the prayers and right behavior of His children. (Proverbs 11:20; Proverbs 12:22; Proverbs 15:8.)

God delights simply in those who are His children.  Don’t we as parents delight in our children?  Our God delights even more in us. (2 Samuel 22:20 & Psalm 18:19 and Psalm 16:3.)

Not only does God delight in His children, but His children delight in the person of God (Job 22:26; Isaiah 58:14; Psalm 37:4,) His attributes (Nehemiah 9:25: Psalm 94:19,) and His presence (Isaiah 58:2.)

There are many verses which speak of the believer’s delight in God’s Word.   His law Psalm 1:2; Psalm 119:70, 77, 92, 174; Romans 7:22,) His commandments (Psalm 112:1; Psalm 119:35, 47, 143,) His way (Psalm 37:23,) His will (Psalm 40:8,) His statutes (Psalm 119:16,) and His testimonies (Psalm 119:24) are aspects of God which we should delight in.

All believers should have a daily walk with God.  This is a personal, daily, intimate communication with my God where we listen to what God says to us through the Word and speak to Him in prayer. How much more important this should be for those in spiritual leadership.

Meditating on God’s Word

When we listen to the voice of God through reading and studying His Word, the Bible, we need to meditate or think carefully about the words we read.  To help us understand what we are reading it helps to ask the following questions:  What does the passage say?  What is the setting and why are these things happening? What lessons are taught here? How does this principle or lesson apply to me?

The Bible tells us that this process of meditation has results.  Your meditations indicate what kind of person you are (Proverbs 23:7 – As a man thinketh in his heart so is he.)  We are instructed to place our thinking under the control of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5 – Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.)  In addition, believers are reminded to continually meditate on God’s word (Psalm 1:1-2 – meditate day and night; Joshua 1:8 – meditate therein day and night.)

When memorizing a verse or portion of a verse, it helps to think on it throughout the day.  We first read the verse, then repeat the verse, then practice saying or writing the verse, then quote the verse from memory.

Prayer Is Talking with God

Not only does God speak to us and reveal His will for believers through His Word, we have the opportunity to speak with Him and communicate with our creator and Savior.  Prayer is talking with God.  God did not appreciate the stilted self-righteous prayers of the Pharisees, nor does He rejoice in the impersonal rote prayers of His children today.

Prayer is not just talking for the sake of talking. When we pray we are talking with the One who created us and intimately knows us.  He understands our innermost thoughts, desires, and struggles.  We need to lay out our heartfelt burdens before Him, as He deeply cares for us and delights to help us.

Praise and Adoration Brings God Delight

Our prayers should first be full of praise for God and His attributes.  Too often we minimize this step because our hearts are burdened or we are in a hurry.  We should thank Him for His care and His answers to prayer.  We must also search our hearts and confess any sin we discover or know of to Him.  Not only are we to take our own burdens to the Lord in prayer, we are to remember the burdens of others before God’s throne.

Part of our devotional time should be dedicated to worshipping God through praise and adoration.   It is encouraging to sing, read or quote hymns as part of your devotions.  Why not take a few minutes and rehearse some of His many attributes and praise Him for them?  He is Holy, Just, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Infinite, Immutable, Eternal, Loving, Merciful, Good, Sovereign, and many more things for which He should receive glory.

Each life is launched down the stream of life.  Our walk with the Lord provides delightful fresh, flowing water to help propel us down that stream.  The stream bed is full of boulders, logs, garbage, and sandbars.  When we do not walk with the Lord consistently the water level drops so that the obstacles stick up and strike our boat as we pass by, causing us trouble.  When we walk with God as we should – when we spend time knowing Him, and praising Him, and speaking to Him in prayer, and growing more like Him – our stream is full and flowing.  The obstacles are still there, but our walk with God lifts us over them and bears us through them so they do not hurt and damage us the same way.

By God’s grace let us take time each day to walk with our God and delight in Him.

Bibliography

Collier, Mardi. What Do I Know About My God? Greenville, SC:  JourneyForth, 2006.

Collins, Nell. To Glorify God.  Indianapolis:  Colonial Hills Baptist Church, 1999.

DeMoss, Nancy Leigh.  A Place of Quiet Rest Journal.  Chicago:  Moody Publishers, 2005.

DeMoss, Nancy Leigh.  A Place of Quiet Rest.  Chicago:  Moody Publishers, 2000.

DeMoss, Nancy Leigh. Seeking Him:  Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival. Chicago:  Moody Publishers, 2004.

Pope, Janet. His Word in My Heart. Chicago:  Moody Publishers, 2002.

Ryle, J. C. “How Readest Thou?” Moscow, Idaho:  Charles Nolan Publishers, nd.