Tuesday, June 12, 2018

LIFE'S CROCKPOT 

My husband and I love a thick and creamy homemade, chicken vegetable soup, so I decided to make some the other day. I pre-cooked the chicken, deboned it, and returned it to the pot. Then I added a variety of colorful vegetables and spices to the chicken and broth and allowed the ingredients to simmer. As the crockpot heated the ingredients, a wonderful aroma began to waft through our home, and it occurred to me that faith more often than not, develops like a potpourri of varying flavors, mingling in a simmering crockpot. 

A crockpot is a depository for cooking ingredients over a long period of time. This world is God's crockpot where He has been preparing mankind for heaven. His key ingredient is the Lord Jesus Christ. If Christ is not at the center of our life, then we are nothing more than a lost conglomerate of carnality that is self-seeking, self-serving, self-absorbed, vain, thoughtless, and looking out for number one—self. 

God monitors our response to the "heat" of life's challenges. For our responses determine the strength of our faith. Often when a crockpot reaches a full boil, we turn it to "medium" or "low." And when the soup is done, we then turn it to the "warm" setting for serving. Depending on what God is trying to accomplish within us, will determine the temperature He sets at different intervals of our life. 

God's love for us is so great, that He will not hesitate to turn the heat up from "low" to "high" in order to get our attention. He may also make adjustments when there is an imbalance in the flavor and fragrance of our life, because He desires that we, as Christ followers, carry and diffuse the fragrance of Christ throughout the world.

With Christ as the very center of our life, we must then be open to God's correction. Those of us, who cook, know that when preparing a dish, we often taste repeatedly to make various corrections and changes to the flavor until it is just right. God tells us, "whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid" (dense, ignorant, irrational, foolish) (Proverbs 12:1 NKJV). 

Correction means to amend a version of something or to rectify an error. Before we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, all of us were on the wrong path, walking in error. While on that path, we made many mistakes and added things to our lives that misdirected and misguided us. Some of those things harmed us. As Christ followers, we require daily correction, because each day, the flesh wants to revert to what it once knew and enjoyed. 

A good soup cannot be made in minutes; the Christian life cannot be made overnight. God has been patiently working in me for 47 years, for which I am grateful. He knows the potential  within me and within each of us. Therefore, He painstakingly guides us in making gradual corrections, which eventually give birth to maturity as a Christ follower. Hence, a sweet aroma reaches others, because we then carry the pleasing aroma of Christ to those being saved and those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 2:15 NIV). For that reason, we must always be submitted to God, embracing His wisdom, His correction, and His knowledge, so that we can grow in faith.

 

Often, when cooking, we might not get the flavor just right because of too much or too little of an ingredient or seasoning. However, we don't throw the entire pot out because of a mistake or even a few mistakes. We keep working with the dish until it reaches the right consistency and flavor for serving. Equally as we learn and grow in the things of God, He doesn't become frustrated with us when we are not "seasoned" perfectly. He sees too much value in the ingredients that have been invested, so He continues to work with us. It is never an option to throw out what He started and begin again with all new ingredients, for He says, "if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance" (Romans 8:25 NKJV).


Perseverance means to be steadfast in doing something despite difficulty, delay, or obstacles in achieving success. With love and perseverance, God waits patiently for us to become that balanced blend of strength, courage, obedience, wisdom, humility, mercy, forgiveness, moral fiber, and faith. 

When life throws us a curveball, we must never give up, because so much has already been invested. If we become discouraged, we need to press in to God, knowing that He is bringing about a flavorful balance that will lend to a fragrant life that draws others to the cross.  

God's crockpot can be difficult and painful. We may encounter circumstances and challenges that we don't understand. However, that is not the time to resist God, because as ambassadors for Christ, God makes His appeal to the world through us (2 Corinthians 5:20). And very often those appeals are made through us in ways that we don't understand. Therefore, we must embrace the opportunity and trust and submit to His mighty hand. For in trusting Him, we achieve victorious faith that allows us to diffuse the fragrance of His knowledge to others, because we are the fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)

May we all submit to God, as His watchful eye monitors, and His steady hand stirs and tastes, until He is satisfied that we carry the fragrance of Christ. For God calls the world to "taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). And it is the aromatic fragrance emitting from us that will cause the lost and hungry to eagerly taste of His goodness. 

PRAYER:
LORD, help me to be teachable and submit to Your correction. Give me the gifts of perseverance and faith so that when life heats up with all of its challenges, I will draw closer to You and make the proper corrections, thereby, creating a sweet aroma in my life that reach others. In Jesus name, Amen. 

Monday, June 4, 2018


WE ARE NEVER TOO YOUNG OR TOO OLD TO READ GOD'S WORD

THE TABLET OF YOUR HEART
God has again impressed upon my heart the extreme importance of knowing, speaking, and committing His Word to memory. For He says, "My people are destroyed because they don't know Me" (Hosea 4:6 TLB). 
How can we know God? The Bible reveals God's character, His heart, and His great love for us. His Word teaches us how to follow His example. His Word encourages, directs, guides, disciplines, and it defines sin, so that we know how to recognize and avoid sin. His Word reveals who we are in Christ and our role on earth. His Word reveals the enemy's clever schemes to kill, rob, and destroy. His Word is knowledge, power, and all truth that can save us from the world's many deceptions, traps, and dangers.
"God's Word is in the heavens and is the same Word that set the foundations of the world. For in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He [Jesus, the Word] was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made, that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men" (John1: 1-3 NKJV).
"[Jesus]was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, [the Jewish people], and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld [Jesus'] glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1: 10-14 NKJV).
Jesus is the incarnate Word, which is Spirit and all truth. When you read His Word, you are reading the very heart of God. For that reason, it is imperative that we write His Word upon the tablet of our heart, for it generates an active, life-giving power in and through us. The Apostle John said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are Spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63 NKJV).

The naysayers state that God's Word is nothing more than an expose´ of opinions and fanciful stories. Jesus clearly said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Words will by no means pass away" (Luke 21:32-34). "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of God endures forever" (Isaiah 40:8). His Words are like indelible ink to be permanently imprinted upon the heart.

Why is God's Word so important? Jesus said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:4). In other words, nourishing the body with food is important, but more importantly, the soul must be nourished with the Word of God. It is the soul that seeks worldly joys and pleasures to fill those empty places that constantly strive for things to satisfy. Alas, the world's offerings can never satisfy a hungry soul. 

God's Word is powerful and firmly fixed in heaven (Psalm 119:89). It is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12)

We might be able to fool others and ourselves, but God's Word exposes the true intentions and motives of every heart. For the Lord says that His Word, "is like a fire" that ignites a light in men's souls and purifies, cleanses, and illuminates their conscience. And "like a hammer," His Word breaks the rocky places of the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit (Jeremiah 23:29).

GOD spoke His Word and the worlds were formed and so was all creation. He continually urges us to speak His Word, for there is living, creative, restorative, delivering power in His Word. Thus, in committing His Word to memory, should we not have access to a Bible, we would be able to speak God's Word with His complete power and authority.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that we may be competent and equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17). God's living Word, when actively working within us, fully equips us for all good decision making. 

We are told in Joshua 1:8 that God's Word must not depart from our mouth, but we must meditate on it day and night, so that we are careful to do His Word according to all that is written in it. Then, we will make our way prosperous and will have good success. 

His Word is the linchpin to receiving everything we need to successfully navigate this life on earth and experience joy that only the Lord can give. For His precepts are right, giving joy to the heart. His commands are radiant, giving light (revelation) to the eyes (our understanding) (Psalm 19:8).

God's Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105). Without His Word to light our way, we fall into error and are caught by the world's deceptions. For the Word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18). Therefore, we devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of His Word (Acts 6:4).

God's Word heals and delivers us from destruction (Psalm 107:20). Therefore, "let the Word of Christ dwell in [us] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16 ESV). 

PRAYER: 
Father, turn my eyes from seeking worthless things that have no eternal value in Your kingdom, and help me to seek Your way and purposes in Your Word. Help me to write Your Word on the tablet of my heart, so that I may know, speak, and live Your truths with faith, power, and authority. In Jesus name, amen.

"I have hidden Your Word in my heart 
that I might not sin against You."
(Psalm 119:11 NIV)

 Picture courtesy of David Beale

Monday, May 28, 2018



"COME TO ME..."

I was praying and this verse crossed my mind, "Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28 NIV). As I meditated on this scripture, several thoughts came to mind.

The word, "burdened," is defined as a load or weight that is exceptionally heavy; a misfortune that causes hardship, anxiety, or grief. Jesus addressed the anguished Jewish people, who were required by the self-righteous Pharisees, to follow laws and regulations they had written and added to the 613 commandments already in place.


Jesus urged the people, "Come to Me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens" (Matthew 11:28 TLB). Jesus was telling them that in Him, there is rest and freedom from those things that enslave, when we allow Him to teach us. 

"Rest" means to cease work or movement in order to regain strength, health, or energy. Jesus was inviting all to a place of rest, but to find that rest, they would need to be teachable and hungry for truth and knowledge that only He could offer. In that truth and knowledge, they would find freedom from manmade constraints, thereby, discovering true freedom in Christ.

The constraints, pressures, and challenges of every day life place heavy burdens that we too often try to carry. For that reason, Jesus' words bear repeating, "Come to Me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke. Wear my yoke—for it fits perfectly—and let me teach you; for I am gentle and humble, and you shall find rest for your souls; for I give you only light burdens" (Matthew 11:28 TLB). He gives rest to our souls when we come to Him as teachable students.

Moses felt burdened and overwhelmed with the responsibility of leading the children of Israel to the Promised Land, so he asked God to teach him His ways, that he might have continued favor with God. The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest" (Exodus 33:14). It pleases God when we ask Him to teach us His ways.

God's response to Moses is His response to all who are faithful, available, and teachable. For only in Him, can we find our rest. God keeps us in perfect peace when our minds are placed steadfastly (unwaveringly, resolutely, dutifully, firmly) on Him; then we are able to trust Him (Isaiah 26:3). And where there is trust, there is freedom from fear, worry, and doubt.

Jesus was obedient unto death, because He trusted the Father and became the fulfillment of the Law of God. He carried the burden that we were meant to carry. That is why He calls to us, "...wear My yoke—for it fits perfectly."

Oxen are yoked (joined) together. When we are yoked with Christ, we are walking in tandem with Him. How then can we fail with Him by our side?

Michael and I are counted among the many who have grown weary and burdened by so many difficult challenges, but God calls to us, "Come to me..." "Let me teach you."  This has indeed, been a long season of learning and growing in faith for me and for my husband. 

We are all invited to "Cast [our] burdens on the Lord, and He shall sustain [us]; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved" (Psalm 55:22). He tells us, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand" (Isaiah 41:10). 

Christianity is not religiosity that follows a set of manmade rules and mandates. It is a viable, living and active relationship with the sovereign God through His Son Jesus Christ. 

The word "Christian" is defined as a disciple (a follower and student of Christ), who enjoys daily intimate interaction through prayer and conversations with God. A disciple of Christ hungers for God's Word, because it feeds the soul and reveals the very nature and heart of God. 

"Come to Me..." "Let me teach you." Those words softly ring as a sweet invitation to respond to the Lord.  May we all respond daily to His invitation.

PRAYER:
FATHER, I humbly come to you this day and relinquish pride, unbelief, uncertainty, fear, worry, and anxiety. As You and I walk yoked together as one, teach me those things that You want me to know, so that I may find rest and peace in my soul. In Jesus name, amen.

Note: A butterfly represents change, endurance, hope, and a resurrected life.