MY UNCLE’S GARDEN

October 10, 2014

Hos. 10:12 Sow for yourselves righteousness;

Reap in mercy;
Break up your fallow ground,
For it is time to seek the LORD,
Till He comes and rains righteousness on you.

My uncle used to have a small farm where he grew various fruits and vegetables. As a child, I was amazed at how much food came from his small plot of land. He had field peas, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, plums, peaches, cantaloupes, watermelons (can’t forget those); the list goes on and on. Those were the sweetest watermelons I have ever eaten.
The point is this, we live in a fruitful world created by a fruitful God. The seedtime and harvest is intended to be a picture of the abundant provision the Lord has put in this world for all of us. Here are some powerful thoughts from Adam Clarke on today’s verse.

“Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy – Literally, ” in the proportion of mercy,” not in proportion to what you have sown, nor what justice would give, but beyond all deserts, ” in the proportion of mercy; according to the capacity and fullness of the mercy of God; what becometh the mercy of God, which is boundless, which overlooketh man’ s failings, and giveth an infinite reward for poor imperfect labor. If the earth giveth thee larger fruits than it has received, how much more shall the requiting of mercy repay thee manifold more than thou gavest!” Sowing and reaping always stand over against each other, as labor and reward.”

Thinking about that one little piece of land speaks volumes about the fruitfulness of our God. His supply in the physical world only speaks of the other world that is all around us. The spiritual world is the one where our Lord lives. That is the place our hearts long for. There is another abundant supply available for us in that invisible world.The supply of the Spirit to our hungry hearts will come with no limitations. Just as my uncle tended to that little plot of land, we must tend to the spiritual garden of our heart. How do we tend our garden? Plow the ground with prayer, plant the seeds of God’s word. As we do these things, we will be amazed at His abundant harvest in our souls. “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.”

JESUS WASHED THEIR FEET

October 9, 2014

John 13:4,5 Jesus rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

This is one of the most stunning scenes in the Bible. The King of Glory in the role of a servant, it doesn’t get any more radical than that. Remember, Jesus is the Creator and Sovereign Ruler over all things. For Him to enter into creation as a man is amazing, to live as the son of common village people is unthinkable; for Him to take the role of a servant and wash dirty fishermen’s feet, that is very hard to imagine. It was hard for Peter to imagine. Peter resisted until he was sharply corrected by the Lord. “Never shall you wash my feet”, Peter declared. Jesus’s response showed His actions were about more than dirty feet, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with me”.
Jesus was actually displaying the powerful future ministry of the Holy Spirit with His actions. The Holy Spirit washes and renews us from the effect of sin. Here are some observations on this incredible act by Matthew Henry.

“Christ manifested his love to them by washing their feet, as that good woman (Luke vii. 38) showed her love to Christ by washing his feet and wiping them. Thus he would show that as his love to them was constant so it was condescending,— that in prosecution of the designs of it he was willing to humble himself,—and that the glories of his exalted state, which he was now entering upon, should be no obstruction at all to the favor he bore to his chosen; and thus he would confirm the promise he had made to all the saints that he would make them sit down to meat, and would come forth and serve them, would put honor upon them as great and surprising as for a lord to serve his servants. The disciples had just now betrayed the weakness of their love to him, in grudging the ointment that was poured upon his head, yet he presently gives this proof of his love to them. Our infirmities are foils to Christ’s kindnesses, and set them off.”

This display of affection was very personal and intimate. This kind of love may be hard to receive, after we receive it, it is life changing. In the same way the ministry of the Holy Spirit is personal and intimate. Open your heart today and receive His love.

UNDER THE SHADOW

October 8, 2014

Psa. 61:4 I will abide in Your tabernacle forever;
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.

There is nothing worse than to be cut off from the presence of God. That’s what this Psalm is about, King David had been exiled, not only had he lost his throne, he was cut off from the house of God. He had been replaced by his son Absalom. If the betrayal wasn’t bad enough, David had lost access to the place of his presence. The tabernacle was the place of the manifest presence of God. To David, this was a death sentence. The situation brings to mind one of David’s other songs, “One thing have I desired of the Lord and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the lord all the days of my life to behold the beauty of the Lord”.
Once someone has experienced the glory of the Lord, to lose access to His presence is not an option. David was crying out to God from what he called the ends of the earth, he was crying out not for his throne but to be restored to the house of God. Here are some thoughts from Spurgeon on today’s verse.

“He who communes with God is always at home. The divine omnipresence surrounds such a one consciously; his faith sees all around him the palace of the King, in which he walks with exulting security and overflowing delight. Happy are the indoor servants who go not out from his presence. The best of all is that our residence with God is not for a limited period of time, but for ages; yea, for ages of ages, for time and for eternity: this is our highest and most heavenly privilege, I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever. I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Often does our sweet singer use this figure; and far better is it to repeat one apt and instructive image, than for the sake of novelty to ransack creation for poor, strained metaphors. The chicks beneath the hen how safe, how comfortable, how happy! How warm the parent’s bosom! How soft the cherishing feathers! Divine condescension allows us to appropriate the picture to ourselves, and how blessedly instructive and consoling it is! O for more trust; it cannot be too implicit: such a covert invites us to the most unbroken repose.”

For us today, the place of his glory is the local church. This is the place where the glory dwells. If you love His presence, you understand David’s desperation. If you go to a church that welcomes and experiences His glory, you too can not stand to be separated from that blessing. If necessary, you also will cry out from the ends of the earth.

REAP IN MERCY

October 7, 2014

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord,

Hosea 10:12

I love today’s Bible verse. Obviously, the Bible has a lot to say about seedtime and harvest. I have loved this scripture for a long time, recently I saw part of it in a very different way. The part that says, “Reap in mercy”, caught my attention as I was reading through this passage again. Actually, as I thought about the phrase, three thoughts came to me.
First, all reaping is the results of mercy. We were all born in a fallen state, actually we were enemies of God. We deserved nothing and God has been pouring His blessings on us since the day we were born. Mercy rejoices and triumphs over judgement. As we are stopped in our tracks by mercy humility is the result. Our hearts are flooded with humility as we are overwhelmed by His mercies. Rather than thinking the world (or worse yet, God) owes us something, our hearts are filled with thanksgiving as we recognize the greatness of His mercy.
Secondly, I became suddenly aware that we reap in proportion to His mercy. I know our sowing plays a part but where did we get the seed for sowing anyway? Exactly! Every seed we plant we have received as provision by the mercy of God. What is the proportion of God’s mercy? Infinite times infinite. There is no limit to His mercy and no limit to his blessing upon us.
Finally, I remembered that Jeremiah said that His mercies are new everyday.
Lam. 3:22,23 “Through the LORD’S mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Every morning we wake up to the new mercies of God. As I open my eyes, new mercies are falling; when I get out of bed, new mercies; as I head off to face whatever today holds; fresh mercies. Our biggest challenge is seeing them. Our lives are daily loaded down with His benefits.
So as we start a new day today let’s pray; Lord, open my eyes and open my heart. Let me see all of your goodness that’s falling on me today. As I become aware of your incredible endless love aimed at me, forgive me for being ungrateful. Amen.
Blessings are falling on you today, stop and drink them in.

LEAD ME TO THE ROCK

October 6, 2014

Psa. 61:1-4 Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry to You, when my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy. I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings.

This was one of my favorite scripture songs in Bible school. Honestly, I think the reason I liked it then was the catchy melody and beat that we sang it with; nevertheless, the Lord used it to keep that scripture in my heart. David saw the Lord as his rock (or better-high ridge), to him, this was a place of refuge. When I think of this passage today, I think about an experience Parris and I had when we went to the Serengeti game park. We actually saw a quite large pride of lions on a rocky ridge overlooking the plain below. This was their home. It was a place of safety for their young, a place easily defended from their enemies. That is one of the ways David saw the Lord. While he was in exile, running for his life from Saul and his army, he would hide away in these mountain high places. David recognized that the Lord was actually his place of refuge.
Many times we look for the solutions to our problems or the satisfaction of our heart’s longings in the things of this world. They offer temporary help and satisfaction at best. Here is Edwards talking about the heavenly substance found in Christ.

“But Christ Jesus has true excellency, and so great excellency, that when they come to see it they look no further, but the mind rests there. It sees a transcendent glory and an ineffable sweetness in him; it sees that till now it has been pursuing shadows, but that now it has found the substance; that before it had been seeking happiness in the stream, but that now it has found the ocean. The excellency of Christ is an object adequate to the natural cravings of the soul, and is sufficient to fill the capacity. It is an infinite excellency, such an one as the mind desires, in which it can find no bounds; and the more the mind is used to it, the more excellent it appears. Every new discovery makes this beauty appear more ravishing, and the mind sees no end; here is room enough for the mind to go deeper and deeper, and never come to the bottom. The soul is exceedingly ravished when it first looks on this beauty, and it is never weary of it.”

REJOICE AND BE GLAD

October 5, 2014

Psa. 70:4 ¶ May all who seek you

rejoice and be glad in you!
May those who love your salvation
say evermore, “God is great!”

No wonder people are consumed with self medication; with all the trouble and bad news in the world, facing it without Christ is quite overwhelming. The other option is apathy and numbness. We sometimes hear so much bad that we become glommed over and untouchable. Everything from ebola outbreaks to beheadings, the news is pretty bleak.
David knew about tough times. He grew up in a land being over run by enemies. If that wasn’t bad enough, as a young man he fell out of favor with his own king and lived in exile for many years. If it wasn’t for the touch of God characterized by joy on David’s life he would have been overcome by fear and depression. Instead, he learned to strengthen himself in the joy of the Lord. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Here are some thoughts from Henry and Spurgeon on supernatural joy.

“He prays that God would fill the hearts of his friends with joy , that all those who seek God and love his salvation, who desire it, delight in it, and depend upon it, may have continual matter for joy and praise and hearts for both; and then he doubts not but that he should put in for a share of the blessing he prays for; and so may we if we answer the character.”

“All true worshippers, though as yet in the humble ranks of seekers, shall have cause for joy. Even though the seeking commence in darkness, it shall bring light with it. And let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified. Those who have tasted divine grace, and are, therefore, wedded to it, are a somewhat more advanced race, and these shall not only feel joy, but shall with holy constancy and perseverance tell abroad their joy, and call upon men to glorify God.”

So if the circumstances or daily news have you in the dumper, know that there is a joy that transcends all of the stuff. David survived in caves and in the wilderness while running from Saul and hiding from the Philistine army. We have the same joy available to us. Rejoice in the Lord! Strengthen yourself in His joy, He will not only get you through, the journey will be a blast.

GENERATOR

October 4, 2014

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promise, in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 1:4–5

Shortly after Katrina decimated New Orleans, Parris and I found ourselves living in a trailer in the driveway of our flooded home. We were the first people back on our street and the only ones there for many weeks. Our only neighbors were the occasional visits from the patrolling National Guard. We were running our lives with a gas operated generator. You don’t really notice the importance of electric power until you don’t have it. That generator became precious and essential for everything we did. That is the way it is with the power of God. Without it we can do nothing. With God’s power, all things are possible. I like to think of the power of God as our generator, the source of life for all we do. Here are some thoughts by Andrew Murray about the importance of this spiritual generator.

“The Lord’s command to preach the gospel to all people not only applied to the disciples, but also to all followers of Christ. The very last command Jesus gave to His disciples, namely not to preach until they had received the power from on high, also applies to us.
The church appears to have lost sight of this great secret (this was written in the 1800’s). We seem to have forgotten that it is only by living in the power of the Holy Spirit that we can preach the gospel. This might be the reason why so much preaching and so much working bear so little fruit. The church lacks the much-availing prayer that brings down the power from on high.
The secret of Pentecost is that the disciples continued with one accord in prayer and supplication until they were filled with the Holy Spirit. They then proved what the mighty power of God could do through them.”

Prayer connects us to the dunamis power of the Holy Spirit. In light of this truth think about the condition our world is in today. For example, just today I read in the news about ebola outbreaks, beheadings, execution of Christians in the Middle East, inappropriate behavior of teachers with their students, and multiple failings by our government officials. You get the picture, our world is sick and dying. Nothing less than the power of God can effect the troubled lives of the people in our world. The good news is that unlimited power is available for His church; all we did to do is look to the Lord in prayer.

THE BEST WORSHIP

October 3, 2014

“He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Galatians 3:6

The author of the book of Hebrews says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith actually describes what happens to us by grace. God’s grace impacts us powerfully, suddenly we are aware of the reality of God. Before, we only had an idea about God; then faith came and made Him alive and precious to us. This is actually describing the creating of a worshipper. Real worship is the spontaneous response to our awareness of God. True worship is not contrived. It is the only way to respond when He steps onto the scene. Martin Luther preached about faith. In a sense, the message of salvation by faith was rediscovered by Luther in the 1500’s. Listen to his thoughts about the power of faith.
“Faith makes God real to us and real in us. Without faith, God’s honor, glory, wisdom, righteousness, truth, and mercy cannot be in us. Where there is no faith, God has no majesty and divinity. God doesn’t require anything more from us than to acknowledge his divinity and give him the glory and honor he deserves. We should think of him, not as an idol, but as God—the God who accepts us and hears us, who is merciful to us, and who stands by us. When we honor God, his divinity remains complete and intact—he has everything that a believing heart can give him. When we honor God in this way, we are showing the greatest wisdom, the highest justice, and the best worship, while offering the most pleasing sacrifice.”
Abraham is considered the Father of the message of faith. Against all odds Abraham believed that God’s promises would come true. Do you have obstacles standing in your way today? I know Abraham did, and certainly Martin Luther had obstacles in the form of powerful enemies. How did these men of God overcome their obstacles? Of course, it was by faith. Where did their faith come from? The Lord came to both of them speaking to them from His word. Have you read the Bible today? As you spend time searching and reflecting on the word of God, don’t be surprised when He steps onto the scene. How will you know? Suddenly those giants will look like grasshoppers. The mountains will be like mole hills. You will not even be thinking about those former problems, you will be to busy caught up in the worship of our great God.

DON’T LOSE YOUR JOY

October 2, 2014

Psa. 43:4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Ministry can be brutal. I know this from experience, pastoring had stolen all of my joy. What was the source of the strife? Everything from unfulfilled dreams, rebellious children, disloyal staff members, disgruntled church folk, and so on and so on. Church work is tough. After my first sixteen years of this I was shell shocked, no mas, I wanted to do anything but ministry. In the knick of time the Lord restored my joy. It was the strangest thing, up until then it was success in ministry that brought happiness.This new joy wasn’t that. I was struck by the exuberant, unexpected, sheer pleasure that exists only in one place, that place is the tangible presence of the Lord. As David said, “In His presence is fullness of joy, at His right hand are pleasures evermore”. Check out Spurgeon’s thoughts on the joy of the Lord.

“Be glad of heart, O believer, but take care that thy gladness has its spring in the Lord. Thou hast much cause for gladness in thy God, for thou canst sing with David, God, my exceeding joy. Be glad that the Lord reigneth, that Jehovah is King! Rejoice that he sits upon the throne, and ruleth all things! Every attribute of God should become a fresh ray in the sunlight of our gladness. That he is wise should make us glad, knowing as we do our own foolishness. That he is mighty, should cause us to rejoice who tremble at our weakness. That he is everlasting, should always be a theme of joy when we know that we wither as the grass. That he is unchanging, should perpetually yield us a song, since we change every hour. That he is full of grace, that he is overflowing with it, and that this grace in covenant he has given to us; that it is ours to cleanse us, ours to keep us, ours to sanctify us, ours to perfect us, ours to bring us to glory-all this should tend to make us glad in him.”

Experiencing the presence of God was a game changer for me. Not only was the dismal funk gone, I had a new passion for church and church work. You see it was in those services that His incredible presence would come in the strongest ways. I live for those visitations. So maybe you have lost your joy, if so, it’s time to go to church. Not just any church, find one that loves to bask in His presence. Soon you will again experience His over flowing joy.

STAR COUNTER

October 1, 2014

Gen. 15:5,6 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.
One of my earliest memories as a child was my mom reading to me from a children’s Bible story book. The only story I remember was the one about Abraham. I can still see the picture of Abraham in my mind. He was outside at night looking into the heavens and counting the stars. It’s funny that that story stands out to me. There must have been the story of David and Goliath in that little book or even the three Hebrew children and the fiery furnace. I don’t remember any of those stories from my children’s Bible, only the one about Abraham and the stars. The Lord was obviously sealing this story in my mind as a child. Why this story? It must be because of the awesome role awakening faith plays in our lives. Here is Martin Luther teaching about his favorite topic, the power of faith.

“With these words, “He believed God,” Paul shows us that faith in God is the highest worship, the greatest allegiance, the ultimate obedience, and the most pleasing sacrifice. Whoever has a way with words should expand on this topic. That person will discover that faith is all-powerful. Its power is immeasurable and infinite. Faith gives God the greatest honor anyone can give him. Giving God honor is believing him, considering him truthful, wise, righteous, merciful, and all-powerful. In short, it’s recognizing that he is the Creator and Giver of every good thing. Reason doesn’t do this; only faith does.”

So today, I am still counting the stars. I am grateful for all I have been privileged to be part of in my Christian journey but I still am a star counter. I think there is a great harvest to come, actually I know that there is. You see every time I count the stars I have an increasing expectancy, an expectancy that all of Abraham’s children are about to come home. Have you been outside at night lately? Give it a try, you may see some of Abraham’s children in those beautiful stars.


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