Romans 6:12 “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.”
Our town has a skunk problem!! Numerous people throughout the village have complained about these black and white critters with the fluffy tail and big stink. Recently one of our renters called to inform us that seven offenders had taken up residence under her shed. That same night we found one scuttling his way across our office parking lot. While I have a great love for God’s created creatures, there are certain species that a person does not want taking over her home or place of business.
Where did they all come from? I am not sure, but I have an idea why they are sticking around. The other day while visiting a local shop we watched a skunk run across the grass. Mentioning it to one of the locals, the gentleman informed us that he has been feeding them. In so doing he had even succeeded in enticing one to come right up to his feet. I am thinking this is probably not a wise idea. One day the plan will backfire and everyone will regret it!
The Bible warns us about a similar danger. Sin runs rampant in this world of ours. It is part of every human’s fallen nature and is the cause of all that is wrong on earth. Jesus came to free us from our sin, and we must not allow it to take up residence in our lives anymore. Those who have accepted God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ have received power to live God’s way. We no longer need to obey our evil desires, but unfortunately many continue to feed their sinful tendencies.
A troublesome thought life should not be fed with worthless pictures or pornography. Hatred should not be nurtured with vicious words and angry bitterness. Envy should not be offered situations where the tendency can grow and lead to unhealthy decisions. When we feed and nurture these sinful vices, they will learn they can creep right up to our feet and take over our whole life. When this happens it is only a matter of time before you and everyone around you will regret it!
I think it’s time to take some action in our small country town. The skunks, along with sin, have no business ruling our lives. They have had their day, but it’s time to stop feeding them. In fact, it’s time to send them packing!
Galatians 6:7 “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”
Gardening season is upon us. How I love the days when the sun grows warm drying out our patch. The revving from the barn means the hibernating tractor is waking up ready to prepare the soil. Dad hooks up the rotavator to loosen the hardened ground. He goes over it again with the tiller until it is fine and ready to receive the seeds and plants we have picked out for the intended crop.
In years past planting time was a family project. After Dad furrowed a carefully measured row, each of you kids would get a cup of seeds. Together we would spread out and space the seeds a child’s hand width along each row. More recently Dad has done a lot of the work as you moved on to other endeavors, but this year we had a blast from the past.
The planting occurred during the week when your small cousins were visiting. What a joy it was to show these youngsters the miracle of planting seeds. Instead of hurrying to get the job done we took the time to study each different seed. The bean seeds were white and much larger than the tiny brown lettuce and spinach seeds. We explained how the produce grown would correlate with the type of seed we planted. Beans only grow from bean seeds and lettuce only grows from lettuce seeds. Each seed produces its own fruit!
We can understand this concept so easily when it comes to planting a garden, but so many forget the spiritual aspect of this truth. God tells us not to be deceived. How we live our lives has a great effect on the future. When a person sows seeds according to their sinful nature, then they will reap the corruption that these actions bring. Yet when one sows seeds of godliness resulting from a life lived in the Spirit they will reap eternal life.
Sin always catches up with us. A life of selfishness leads to loneliness and straying from God’s commandments eventually produces grief and sorrow. Yet for those who follow God’s ways and seek His guidance in every thought and action, peace and righteousness are the results.
The garden seeds are planted and we now see bean plants growing in our bean row. In the same way lettuce is flourishing in the lettuce row and spinach in the spinach row. Why? Because you always reap, whether in plants or actions, the seeds that you sow!
Psalm 103:17-18 “But the lovingkindness of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him and His righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep His covenant and remember His precepts to do them.”
The older I get the harder it is to remember things. As the years pass the information filling my brain seems to slip away like sand in a sieve. I grasp a person’s name one minute and the next I am searching every corner of my mind to recall the elusive data. It is truly exasperating! But these are the kinds of things that happen to people with the passing of time.
Your Great Grandma lived into her late nineties. For most of her years she was as sharp as a pin, but as she neared the one hundred year mark she struggled in many ways. Her eyesight grew dim and her hearing was somewhat impaired. She had trouble remembering even the easiest of things and often became confused. Once while attending a gathering of friends and family Luke approached her to ask if she would like some tea. She looked at him inquisitively for a moment and said, “You remind me of my grandson.” Luke responded, “Grandma, I am your grandson!” Faint recollections and fading vision kept her from placing someone who had very close ties with her.
While it is disheartening to experience these kinds of issues with loved ones, we can be assured that our heavenly Father will never forget. Man’s days are like grass and the flowers of the field. They are beautiful for a short time, but eventually fade away. Yet our God never changes. His lovingkindness towards those who fear Him is from everlasting to everlasting, and His righteousness extends to all who keep His commands. Generations come and go, but He never forgets even one of His children. His eye is attentive to every move and His ear open to every cry. He is aware of our frailty and is compassionate towards our needs.
What a comfort to know that even though human memory has glitches and moments of forgetfulness, the Lord will never forget. He always recognizes His children’s faces, remembers their names, and cares about every area of their lives. He will never change and His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
This has been an exciting week. Luke and Brianna signed the lease for the apartment they will live in after getting married and all of us helped move their stuff into this new home. Three vehicles and one trailer filled with household goods and furniture transported their belongings from one place to another. We packed and moved box after box. Whew! What a big job. But that’s what you do on move-in day!
All this excitement and flurry took me back to 1989 when Dad and I set up housekeeping at our first little apartment. We rented a small, one-bedroom unit in Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey, where we packed in all our earthly belongings. We didn’t have much at first –wedding gifts and a number of second hand furniture – but it was home for us.
This tiny place was ours for the first four years of our marriage. We enjoyed living there, but always knew it was temporary. We didn’t spend much money to fix things up or even decorate as we were both very frugal and wanted to save our money for when we got our “real home.”
Four years later we packed up our things and moved to Ohio. Here we purchased a small house on Main Street. It was a great starter home, but again we knew it would be temporary and spent only as much money as was needed to make it comfortable and pleasant.
Finally, in 1995, we purchased the home we live in now. This farmhouse was just what Dad and I had always dreamed of owning. It was in great disrepair and over the years we have sunk quite a bit of cash into bringing it back to life. All of you kids have spent your growing up years here and I hope you have enjoyed the freedom and opportunity that a country home can bring.
While we have settled in this place where we wanted to stay, I have come to realize that nothing has really changed. This brick two-story and lovely property is still not our “real home.” As the old country hymn states, “This world is not my home. I’m just a-passin’ through . . .” Our real and final home is way beyond the blue in heaven. All the fixing up and money spent on any home here is only for a short stay. That’s why it is important to keep the right perspective about this life. It is only temporary. Making an eternal investment in our heavenly home a priority is the wisest thing to do.
I am so excited for Luke and Brianna as they set up housekeeping and start their lives together. If they are like us, they will probably live in a number of different places before they reach their “real home.” But even that will not be their final dwelling. For Christians the last move will be the easiest. We will leave our dwellings and stuff here, and settle down in heaven for eternity. And what a move-in day that will be!
Isaiah 31:1 “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!”
“Take shelter! Strong and potentially dangerous storms with possible hail damage have been issued for the following counties . . . .”
The alert sounded over the radio the other day while I was driving to a nearby mall. I was now in a dilemma. Should I turn around and go home, or should I continue my shopping trip and hope I could find appropriate cover if the storm actually did hit?
These kinds of weather occurrences regularly arise in our state during the spring season, and it behooves all Ohioans to recognize the signs and be familiar with the best safety procedures for the warning issued. Can you imagine if during a thunderstorm warning everyone took cover under the nearest tree? Or as a twister’s path of destruction drew near a town the residents all scurried to the attic to ride out the storm? These actions would be foolish and very possibly deadly! When faced with imminent disaster, it is important to seek the right kind of shelter and protection.
God’s people were in danger. Over and over they had disobeyed His commands, sought after other gods, and disregarded the warnings of the prophets. These wayward people were soon to suffer the consequences of their unwise decisions. A cruel enemy army was threatening their existence and they were in a quandary as to what to do. Where could they seek shelter from the strong troops that stamped their boots on the threshold of their cities?
There was only one wise thing to do, but the stubborn children of God refused to do it. Despite their history of God’s protection and provision, these rebels rejected the Lord and turned to the foreign nation Egypt for help against the enemy. In their minds the strong horses and horsemen along with the numerous chariots were their best hope for protection.
The prophet Isaiah warned against this foolish decision, but to no avail. Like hiding under a tall tree in a thunderstorm, God’s people put their trust in an ungodly country comprised of sinful humans just like they were. In so doing they brought even more disaster upon themselves. They didn’t understand that this decision would result in both nations’ coming to an end together.
I am afraid we are no different! When difficulties arise we often choose help and protection that sounds logical to us. We run first to friends or family, we rack our brains for a solution, or we try to fight and argue our way out of a dispute. But how many times do we seek help from the Lord as our first resort? In prayer we can lay our circumstances before Him asking for wisdom, protection, and justice. His ear is open to our cries, and He is the perfect shelter in any and every storm.
God’s nation ignored His warnings, but there is a chance for us. Maybe the next time a life storm is brewing we should reconsider hiding in the attic or under the tallest tree. Instead why not do the wise thing – look first to the Holy One of Israel and seek the Lord! In His hands is the safest place to be!!
Isaiah 30:15 “For thus the Lord God the Holy One of Israel, has said, ‘In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.’ But you were not willing.”
There are some sad statements made throughout the Bible. Over and over again we read words of comfort and promises of God’s blessings, but often we choose to disregard His message. God offers us so much, and then sadly has to say, “ But you were not willing.”
This has been a very busy season in my life. Graduations, two sons getting married, work, and the regular rhythm of life have all but done me in. I found it necessary in the past couple of months to take a breather from my regular writing schedule so I could rest my body, my emotions, and my mind. Many of you wondered where I have gone. While taking a break from posting I have had time to study and think without pressure. It has been a time of peace and rest.
While reading and praying, the Lord led me to Isaiah 30:15. It has been such a blessing. So much is swirling around me. Wedding preparations are in full swing. Preparing mentally for a huge change in our family structure, as well as balancing work, home, ministry involvement, and so much more bring exhaustion to a new level. But the Lord has continually reminded me of the need to rely more fully on Him in these stressful moments. “In repentance and rest you will be saved, In quietness and trust is your strength.”
There are times when we all need to step back from activity. Somehow we think that we must do it all. We run! We fuss! We strive! When all the while God is telling us to trust Him. Be quiet, sit back, and rest!
Judah was in a big mess! They had turned from the Lord and a foreign nation was breathing down the peoples’ necks. Instead of consulting God they tried to execute their own plan for deliverance. They fussed and planned and then finally decided to go to Egypt for help. There they thought they could take refuge in the safety of Pharoah. But all the while God was speaking to them through the prophet, Isaiah. He told them to repent of their sin, turn back to God, and rest in Him. If they would do this they would be saved. By waiting quietly for the Lord they would receive all the strength they needed.
“But you were not willing.” What a sad statement! All this blessing was at the disposal of God’s people, but sadly they rejected it!”
Today, God offers these same blessings to us. He longs to be gracious and show us His kindness and compassion in the midst of every circumstance of life. But we need to listen to His voice and obey. Sometimes this means taking a break from writing, other times it means saying no to the hustle and bustle that regularly dictates our lives so we can allow God’s peace to fill our souls and give us strength. When we are willing to listen we will experience the rest that God promises to give.
As the summer moves forward I plan to continue my writing, but I will only be posting once or twice a week and maybe sharing some favorite posts from the past as God leads. I hope this summer you will also be encouraged to take a rest, and listen for God’s voice. Do not disregard His message. In the quietness and through trust you will experience His unlimited strength and peace.
Isaiah 2:17 “The pride of man will be humbled and the loftiness of men will be abased; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.”
Pride can take many forms. Some boast in their strength. Some boast in their knowledge. Some boast in their riches. And still others boast in the bling.
The way a person dresses says something about them. Men and women alike spend thousands of dollars accessorizing their bodies in all sorts of ways. Rings, body piercings, colorful hair colors, and tattoos have become all the rage. Often these accouterments are meant to attract attention and make the wearer stand out in the crowd. What is the motive behind our overuse of bling and is it really harmless?
The prophet Isaiah spoke about the women of Judah and their use of bling. The Lord saw through all the glitter to the hearts of these beauties and what he found was pride. They walked with upheld heads and seductive eyes adorned with dangling jewelry, perfume, nose rings, fine clothes, and even special undergarments (I wonder if Victoria’s Secret was around back then?).
While the outward beauty of these women was not the problem, the attitude of their hearts was. Because of their egotism God promised to punish them. Their beauty would be removed and they would be humbled until they learned that the Lord is the only one who deserves to be exalted.
Most of us enjoy a little bling now and then, but it is important to check our hearts to see if pride in our appearance has crept in. Have we adorned ourselves only for the purpose of gaining attention? Are we thinking more of ourselves than we should?
Always remember that our lives should glorify God in all ways. Don’t boast in the bling, but in the Lord. He is the only one who deserves to be exalted.
Luke 23:17-21 “[Now he (Pilate) was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.] But they cried out all together, saying, “Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!” (He was the one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection made in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, but they kept on calling out, saying, “Crucify, crucify Him!”
How are you?
Oh, I suppose that was not a good question. How could any man condemned to death on a Roman cross be anything but crippled with fear? I wish your present hardships had never happened, but your past decisions have placed you in a very desperate situation. You must have known that participating in rebellions against the Roman government would be very dangerous. Yet you still attempted these treacherous actions and in the process got caught up in horrible terrorist crimes resulting in murder and more. I am sure at the time you thought you were being brave and courageous, fighting for what you believed in, but it is easy to get caught up in emotions and follow them to your fate.
Does the slow drip, drip of condensation puddling in your damp cell ever cause you to rethink your actions? Not that you could change your consequences now. Even if you were to beg and scream for mercy, there would be no respite. Justice must be done and your crimes paid for, and the Roman way is excruciating death on a rugged cross. I don’t envy your circumstances. Even the thought of all you will endure in beatings, mocking, and puncture wounds from the sturdy nails fastening your limbs to wood beams causes my legs to grow weak. But let’s face it – you deserve it! If you do the crime, then you must do the time!
But wait – what’s that? There is a commotion outside your prison walls. I can’t see everything that’s happening because the crowds are swarming the pavilion, but it seems they are very angry. There is another prisoner standing on the platform for sentencing. The people are accusing him of misleading the nation and calling himself the King of the Jews. He looks harmless enough – not a hardened criminal like you are – but the mobs sure don’t like him.
Oh Barabbas! This just might be your LUCKY DAY! The great Pilate wants to release this new prisoner, Jesus of Nazareth, but the crowds are swelling and screaming for his death. They have demanded that the frazzled ruler follow through on the Roman custom of releasing one prisoner during this Passover celebration. It is obvious that Pilate, believing him to be innocent, wants to release this Jesus of Nazareth, but the crowd is screaming YOUR name.
Despite all you have done and deserve, this other man is going to take your punishment.
Your cross is going to be His cross.
Your suffering His suffering!
Barabbas, do you understand? You are going to be set free!!
Dear one, this is all too good to be true. It is a chance of a lifetime. I hope this incredible mercy will change you. You are getting a second chance. Thank God for this unexpected gift of life in allowing this man Jesus to die for you.
This is not the end, and I will look forward to seeing you soon.
Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
Hebrews 10:19 “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Thousands of voices filled the Indiana Convention Center with the words from Martin Luther’s great hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. I had never heard such a great choir of God’s people joining together in praise of our God. It truly was a thrill, but I almost missed it!
Monday morning Dad and I had planned to attend The Gospel Coalition’s bi-annual conference in Indianapolis. After some struggling to decide if I should go or not, we decided that Dad would go early in the church van and I would come later.
My road trip was uneventful as I drove the straight shot across I-70 W, and then maneuvered my way through downtown Indianapolis to our hotel’s parking garage. Crossing the street I entered the sprawling convention center and began my search for the main session, which was already in progress. Dad texted me his location and I strode along the corridors hoping to make it in time for the next speaker. Taking a shortcut through the large area set up with book and information stalls, I attempted to enter the main auditorium when an attendant stopped me.
“Where’s your badge?”, he said.
“UMMM! My husband has it,” I stammered back.
“Well, you need to call him and get it before you can enter. Step aside please!”
I was taken aback and flustered as I tried to punch the message into my cell phone, “PLEASE bring my pass!”
Dad answered back with explicit instructions as to where he was sitting.
No, you don’t get it! I typed, “They won’t let me in without the pass.”
In short order Dad showed up, handed me the pass, and I gained access to the proceeding within the auditorium.
Looking around I took in the thousands of believers attending the event. All of them were wearing their important passes on lanyard around their necks. These plastic cards proved they had paid their admission and allowed them to be part of all that was going on. Without the card they would not have had access to the fellowship and teaching being offered.
I couldn’t help but think that I would one day meet these people from all over the world again in heaven. On that day we will also need a pass to enter our eternal home. But instead of a plastic card, our admission is gained by the blood of Christ. Even now those who have allowed God to wash their hearts clean can access God’s presence with full confidence because of what Jesus did by shedding His blood and taking the punishment for our sins.
I was so grateful to receive my conference pass so that I could participate in this amazing event this week. The teaching and fellowship has been wonderful. But I am even more grateful that my admission into God’s presence is secure because of what Christ did for me on the cross. His precious blood is the pass for all who believe.
A Mighty Fortress is Our God. I wonder if a great choir of tens of thousands will sing this hymn in heaven? If we do I am sure it will be amazing. I’m just glad that I already have my pass for heaven. Make sure you have yours, too!