The smell was atrocious! There was no ignoring it as my friends and I were getting out of the van parked next to the field that had recently been ‘fertilized’. My friend Debbie said, “yep – fertilizer stinks but that’s what makes us grow!” Boom! What a mic drop moment as we all followed with, ‘isn’t THAT the truth!?!’
We don’t like it when things don’t go right. When situations are out of our control. When we find ourselves plowing through hard things. No one EVER signs up for pain and suffering. I would get in line for good times and happily-ever-afters every time if I had the choice. But this is real life. And real life includes struggles and hard places. Anxious times and stressful situations. That’s the fertilizer in our lives…and it stinks!
Thank the Lord that our fertilizer seasons are not the end of our story! We may not always see it when we’re in it. But God does. He is the Master Gardener. He knows those experiences challenge us and He loves us through them. Growing in our faith, in our love for God and for others – that is what makes it all worth it.
Philippians 1:6 tells us, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
With the wave of his hand and his very loud, yet cheerful tone, our Jewish tour guide, Amnon, could gather us all together with one arm in the air and one word…”FRIENDS”! I can still hear him roll the ‘r’ as he called us to follow him. It didn’t take very long for us to feel like we really were friends. As we traveled he would tell us stories associated with the sites and let us know the level of authenticity for specific historical events.
When we visited Israel it was more than a sight-seeing adventure. It was a pilgrimage. Our pastor was with us to help us connect Bible stories to the places we visited. The seaport of Joppa. Mt. Nebo. The Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. The Via Dolorosa. The Garden Tomb, the Mount of Olives and so much more.
Overlooking the city of Jerusalem I found myself weeping as Amnon talked about his Jewish heritage and turned to us and said, “Welcome home”. I wept at the view of this city that Jesus loved full of people that Jesus wept over in Luke 19.”When Jesus came closer and could see Jerusalem, he cried and said: It is too bad that today your people don’t know what will bring them peace!… because you did not see that God had come to save you.”
It is hard to describe the experience of walking where Jesus walked, reading His Word there, taking it all in. If you have had the opportunity to make this pilgrimage, no doubt, you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say it makes the Bible come to life!
Whether you’ve been to the Holy Land or not, there is One, today, this very minute, who stands with His arm outstretched, calling out “Friends!” with an invitation to come and see. Nothing compares to the pilgrimage that Jesus wants to take us on. Don’t miss the invitation to know His peace and His salvation….and some day His words – welcome home!
One of my favorite Pastors, Bill Sammons Sr., told me recently, “the most effective way to share Jesus with another is to tell your story of how Jesus changed your life.” No matter what we do for a living or how comfortable we are in conversation with others I am convinced that when we are willing to share our story of change it opens the door for others to identify that need in their own lives.
I think we can complicate it if we try to make the story about ourselves. The simplicity of the Gospel…the Good News…is that we all are sinners…lost and hopeless…until we meet Christ and open our hearts to the Savior. Jesus gives us hope for eternal life. Once He rewrites our story, no one can refute what God has done, because our story is part of His story.
1 Peter 3:15 (CEV) encourages us to “Honor Christ and let Him be the Lord of your life. Always be ready to give an answer when someone asks you about your hope.”
Have you shared your story lately?
Working the early hours of a morning show for radio meant that I didn’t get to see my kiddos first thing before school so when I did have a chance to get them up, and take them in, it was a treat for me. While I prayed for my children every morning, on those rare mornings that I was with them before school, I would take a few minutes to pray with them for God to be with them and help them to have a good day.
One morning, I asked my 4 year old son if he was ready for me to pray and he said, ‘no, I don’t feel like it today.’ I was crushed! Immediately I felt like I’d failed as a mom! How could this be?! I prayed over him anyway!…because…well… I’m the mom! And I tried not to make a big deal over it. But I was heartbroken!
When I came back to the car after dropping him off, I called my dad, and told him how sad I was that my little guy said he didn’t feel like praying. I’ll never forget what my wise father said very gently to me. He said, ‘well, don’t you ever have a day that you just don’t feel like praying?’ And just like that, my perspective shifted. Truthfully, I have had occasions that I felt at a loss for words to say to God.
Whether it is anxiety, exhaustion, distraction or shame, or any other reason that can keep us from talking to God I believe that when we’re honest, God can work with that! He already knows what is going on in our hearts and minds. We could build a wall and refuse to talk to Him about it…or we can admit how we feel and ask Him to help us find our way through. And He will. Every single time.
Psalm 145:18-19 (ESV) tells us, “The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear Him; He also hears their cry and saves them.”
“When are your library books due back?” That’s easy enough to answer, right?! You flip to the inside back cover to find the date stamped on the pocket. And if your electric bill payment is due on the 15th of the month that is a very specific time.
“When are you due?” Perhaps the question most asked a mom-to-be and while the doctor has given a due date, we know that babies seldom arrive on the date they are expected! But at least we have a ballpark estimate of when we can expect the celebration to begin!
The Bible also uses the word ‘due’ but it’s usually wedged into this phrase: in due time. That takes it from being pretty specific to frustratingly abstract. In fact, most often, when we read ‘in due time’…we tend to think that ‘waiting for the answer for an indefinite length of time‘ is the translation. In the Old Testament, Hannah prayed, and cried, and begged God for a child for years. 1 Samuel 1 in verse 20 it says in due time Hannah gave birth to a son. 1 Peter 5:6 tells us to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and He will lift us up in due time. And one of my favorite promises is in Galatians 6:9. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
It may only take twenty seconds to read one verse in the Bible that talks about what can happen in due time. The actual answer could take a lifetime! Let’s face it. We have a very limited scope of the whole story of our lives. But God sees it all. He knows how all of our stories fit together to tell HIS story. And it will be magnificent…when it’s all told…in due time!
We can’t pour from an empty cup. So… why do we try to live like we can? Not enough sleep. Not eating foods that fuel us. Dehydration. Physically, those signs begin to tell on us pretty quickly. Cranky. Fatigued.
When we don’t intentionally put our spiritual cup under the spout of the Holy Spirit…we may get away with that for a while…but an empty cup will catch up with us. And chaos ensues.
Jesus knew that pushing away from the crowd, taking some time alone to pray, was imperative. And He set an example for us to know how important it really is. Luke 4:42 (NLT) tells us, “Early the next morning Jesus went out to an isolated place. The crowds searched everywhere for him, and when they finally found him, they begged him not to leave them.”
Whether you’re a mom with little kids that find you even when you’re trying to find a few moments of quiet in your bathroom or you’ve got a crew of team mates at work looking to you to keep things moving in the right direction….the world needs what you have to give. You just can’t give it if your cup is empty.
Being intentional about getting alone with God to refill our cup every day is a necessity. The good news is…the Living Water will never run dry. We can hold our cup up to the Lord every single day and it’s His delight to fill it up!
‘I will give you rest.’ I kept hearing that over and over while I was laying in the hospital bed. That promise that Jesus spoke in Matthew 11:28 was the verse that God whispered to me at the beginning of this year when I learned that my word for this year was going to be ‘REST’. He’s been teaching me a lot about rest this year but this particular lesson has been a difficult one for me.
More sick than I’ve ever been in my life, I found myself unable to focus on anything but the fight to survive. Prayers were short but frequent. Different Bible verses that have been embedded in my memory would come to my mind and became part of my ongoing conversations with God. Thank You Lord that Your name is a strong tower. The righteous run into it and are safe. Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of the heavens and the earth.
And this one…Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened…and I will give you rest. Weary? Definitely. Heavy burdened? Absolutely! And the exchange Jesus offers? To bring it all to Him for the gift … of rest. Rest doesn’t always feel like a gift. But when you find yourself so weary you can hardly move, carrying so much you can hardly think straight, rest is a most beautiful gift.
And rest doesn’t come unaccompanied. Rest comes with peace, with healing, with the companionship of Christ. And so much more. Rest for your soul brings wholeness and that is something Jesus longs to give us.
If you have ever flown in a commercial airplane you know that part of the emergency preparedness instructions from flight attendants is that if cabin pressure should change, an oxygen mask will drop down in front of you – and you must put your oxygen mask on first. Then assist others around you. It seems counter intuitive – especially if you are a parent traveling with a small child. You would instinctively want to put your life on the line to save your child and put their mask on first, right?
The truth is we can not save anyone if we don’t take care of ourselves, first. Just as putting our own oxygen mask on first enables us to be able to help others put their masks on – we must be filling up own own mind, spirit & soul with God’s Word & time in His presence – before we can share it with others around us.
The only thing that will be in heaven that we are able to take with us are the people that we helped in some way to find Christ. Maybe that is why Jesus began His teaching on the mountainside in Matthew 5 with this instruction: “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for Him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” When we realize we are nothing without him and we begin to breathe in Christ, we are able to help others to do the same. In the spirit realm, Jesus Christ, is our oxygen. Without Him, there is no life. And how amazing it will be to enter the Kingdom of Heaven and find ourselves surrounded by those who helped us to come to Christ along with those we helped as well.
What if we began each morning by putting on our oxygen mask, breathing in Jesus into every fibre of our being, so that we are ready and able to help assist others in breathing Him in as well?!
The truth will set you free. Probably one of the most misquoted scriptures in the whole Bible. Because many times it’s spoken totally out of context. We hear it in movies and television shows, in conversations about a variety of things.
Jesus Himself spoke these words and in the context that He was speaking these words He meant it specifically about THE truth. Remember that Jesus said, “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” in John 14:6?!
There is ONE truth. With that in mind, hear what Jesus spoke in John 8:32 from The Message: “Then Jesus turned to the Jews who had claimed to believe in him. “If you stick with this, living out what I tell you, you are my disciples for sure. Then you will experience for yourselves the truth, and the truth will free you.””
The only way to live out what Jesus tells us is by reading and knowing His Word. His Word IS Truth. And we have this promise from Him that when we live out what He tells us…we are His…and His truth will set us free! What a beautiful promise to count on!
There is no life parallel or equal that could compare to the grace and mercy that God has freely given to every person. When I think about Romans 3:25 I cannot think of a single thing that could adequately describe the enormous, exceptional gift that God was willing to give us.
This is what He did: “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past.” (NLT)
What is left to us is to choose to receive His gift. If you’ve already chosen God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, this is a moment to celebrate and give thanks! If you haven’t, there is good news! Today is the day of salvation! Just pray this prayer: Dear Jesus, I admit that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Thank you for dying on the cross for my sins and rising again so that I can live forever with you. I invite you to live in my heart and make me new. In Your name I pray. Amen.
The priceless cost of this gift was paid with the blood of Jesus. The generosity of the gift was given by God. The simplicity of the gift is for us…to believe and receive. And that truly is unparalleled.