Tag Archives: Lord

Sunflowers

sunflowers

In late summer, there was a large sunflower field in the St. Louis metropolitan area that was a fair distance from my house. People kept posting beautiful pictures of themselves in the midst of these beautiful blossoms. I wanted to get there to see the sunflowers for myself but I kept putting it off or was too busy to make the drive.

Then the last weekend in August I decided to make the trek, only to find I was too late. The sunflowers had lost their color and were all drooping forlornly. I took a picture of myself with the sad-looking sunflowers anyway.

As I drove away from the the field that once was so full of life, it made me think about the fact that we as Christians oftentimes need to act right away when an opportunity to share our faith presents itself or the chance for a beautiful result may slip away. Don’t get so caught up in yourself and your activities that you miss the opening to blossom with God’s love and shine the light of the Son of God onto someone else.

The experience also made me remember the words of Isaiah who said, “The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the Word of the Lord lasts forever” (Isaiah 40:8). The fading sunflowers actually become a comforting symbol that shows that the Word of the Lord will never fade away. We do not have to worry that God’s messages will wither away. The Word will be a bright and lasting burst of sunshine in our lives every day here on earth and in heaven to come. Let opening the Bible be like opening a forever-flourishing flower in an otherwise dwindling creation. Let the words bloom within you.

Moving Forward

road

There are times during this pandemic when things feel like they are at a stand-still. We are stuck at home working remotely. Our children are stationed in front of their screens for online learning. Many of our churches have still not opened their doors to in-person worship. We may not feel we should venture out too far for fear of being around too many people.

But even with all these restrictions and parameters placed upon us and by us, we still have the ability and the calling to move forward in different ways. Think about what Jesus told his disciples before he left. He said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). That calling has not changed, even though we may not be walking around our neighborhoods as much as we used to or have not been getting in the car to go to church as often or at all.

We can move forward spiritually in our discipleship by reaching out by text or email or phone to friends and family with cheer in the Lord’s name. We can share something we have learned from Scripture on our computer screens through Zoom or other video conferencing platforms. We can pray for people around the world who are struggling during these times.

Any lack of mobility we are encountering now does not sideline our spiritually. We are always growing and changing and maturing in our faith no matter where we are. So don’t stop. Keep moving forward for the Lord. The Bible says, “Salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). The day when we will be with Jesus in heaven is getting closer, so using our time until then spreading the Word of God is increasingly important. Get going!

The Three E’s

The Three E's Christianity Today founder Billy Graham’s original vision for the periodical was to “engage, encourage and equip the church” (Harold Smith, “Why Now?” Christianity Today, 9). It remains the vision of the magazine to this day and it should be the driving force and mission behind all that we do as members of the church here and now.

Here’s what that can look like:

Engage: We as Christians need to engage the church in its mission to spread the Gospel message by being present and not staying in the shadows. We need to stay involved in what our individual congregations are doing. We need to worship, sing and share with others what God has done in our life in Christ through his death and resurrection. All of our engagement goes a long way to keep our church vital and active and an integral part of our communities.

Encourage: We need to do all we can to compliment and support the work of all the workers in the church who invest countless hours putting together and conducting worship services, Sunday school lessons, Bible studies, musical experiences and all sorts of groups and programs in any church’s given ministry. The work of the church can be draining and thankless. A kind word, a pat on the back, a note of thanks from you to your ministry team can mean the world to those who serve in the church.

Equip: Equipping the church can come in many ways. We can give the church the tools they need to carry out their ministry by giving of our time, talents and treasures. There are so many ways in which we can volunteer for a program or lend a hand in a building project or provide monetarily what we can for a cause. “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver¯ St. Paul said to the Corinthians and he says to each of us today (2 Corinthians 9:7). Do what is truly in your heart to give to equip the church in its endeavors to reach more and more people with the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord.

That’s what will make the church grow and thrive through him. See what you can do to take part in one or all of these three e’s in your labors for the Lord this week in response to his love.

Gentleness

gentleness Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5

One part of the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. And in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he wants to make sure that this congregation’s gentleness is evident to all. Why? Because the Lord is near. Our gentle ways should be what people are seeing at work in us when the Lord returns.

In a world that is often hostile, angry and at odds with one another, our gentleness as Christian people can stand out. What do we mean by being gentle? We only need to look to our Lord Jesus when he was on this earth for guidance. He said, “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). He took little children into his arms and blessed them (Mark 10:16). He spoke gently even of those who were crucifying him, saying, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

In the same way, we can be people of gentleness by being humble in our approach to people, by embracing children and caring for those around us in a loving way, by blessing those around us with the peace of God and encouraging them in their endeavors. We can be gentle in our forgiving of those who have hurt us, recognizing that we are all sinful and in need of the grace and mercy found only in the cross.

Even when we witness to others of the hope we have in Christ, we are to do so “with gentleness and respect,” St. Peter says (1 Peter 3:15). We need to be comforting in how we share our faith, not overbearing. Our goal should always be to be kind and helpful and reassuring. That is what gentleness is all about. Be gentle in your ways today, with the help of God.

 

 

Is the Lord’s Arm Too Short?

arm of GodThe Minute in the Word on Joy FM in St. Louis on Nov. 12, 2018, highlighted Number 11:23 when God reminded Moses:

Is the Lord’s arm too short?

You see, the Children of Israel were desperately in need of food, and Moses could not see how they could find enough food for them all. Moses could only see what was at arm’s length around him.

But the Lord’s arm extends far beyond our imagination.

God sent a great wind that drove quail to the camp to feed the people for a month.

God’s arm is never too short to help us. He can reach out as far as he needs to in order to bring us help. Why? Because as we all know, on this Valentine’s Day, he loves us dearly.

Let us never forget that.

 

 

 

Strength of My Life

strengthThe LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? —Psalm 27:1 (KJV)

My confirmation verse was Psalm 27:1. I chose it because I liked the words about the Lord being “my light and my salvation.” But recently a friend of mine showed me a plaque he received as a farewell gift when he left one congregation to serve as a musician in another. “The Lord is the strength of my life,” it read. And my friend has faithfully put it by the door in homes he has lived in ever since.

What a nice reminder as we leave our homes that the Lord is the strength of our lives. We cannot do it with our own strength, but we can do it with his. He is the core, the center, the driving force that carries us forward in our lives.

Much like in our bodies, when we exercise, we are supposed to “work the core,” the center of our bodies around the torso, because when the core is strong, the rest of our body becomes stronger. That is a great picture of how the strength of the Lord makes our entire selves, both soul and body, strong because he is strong.

Think about the strength God gives this week. Draw upon that core strength, and say with the psalmist, “Of whom shall I be afraid?”

 

God’s Plan Is Bigger

God’s plan is biggerIn light of the fact that over the last two decades, the U.S. suicide rate has risen by 25 percent, leaders in the Church are being compelled more than ever to speak out about the meaning of our lives in the context of God’s plan. Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, whose own son, Matthew, committed suicide in 2013, has urged those who are suffering to reach out to others for help, and he urges congregations to make a concerted effort to talk to those who are suffering.

What should our message to them be? Warren says we should remind sufferers of this Biblical truth: “God’s plan and purpose for you is greater than the problem or emotion you’re feeling now” (“People in Pain,” World Magazine, June 30, 2018, 9).

The realization that God’s plan and purpose is bigger than ourselves is a very comforting thought and one that I have gone back to quite often since I read this quote.

Are you having a problem at work or at home? God knows about it and will get you through it, as he has planned.

Are you worried, scared, nervous angry, sad, frustrated? God has the power to overcome those emotions and bring you peace and hope and confidence in him.

Life can be messy and not what we envisioned, for sure, but our faith tells us that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

And we are assured that ”he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

We may not be able to see the plan of God for us right now, but we will one day, on the Last Day, and until that time we hold on tight to and find joy in the knowledge that the Lord says, even on our saddest day, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). Keep trusting in him.

Plans

calendarI am a planner, I will admit. I like to schedule my day and my week and know when I will be where. This is a natural tendency among humans, we can all acknowledge, I think.

But during my recent illness, all my plans went out the window and I realized that I am not as in control of my time and my life as I like to think I am.

When I was talking about this with a friend of mine, she reminded me of this verse from Scripture:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15

So I have taken up the practice of prefacing my plans with the disclaimer, “If the Lord wills … ” And I do not find that confining or pessimistic in any way. I am just relaying to others that my plans are not up to me ultimately; they are up to God.

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Cultural Liturgies

walking

Walking to work is one of our cultural liturgies.

In his book, Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation, Christian philosopher James K. A. Smith talks about what he calls “cultural liturgies,” those daily habits we engage in as a Christian society that reveal what our beliefs are.

Smith in his thesis reframes the word liturgy to mean “Love-shaped habits—whether sacred or secular—that shape and constitute our identities” (Desiring the Kingdom. p. 25).

He goes on to say, “Malls, stadiums, and universities are actually liturgical structures that influence and shape our thoughts and affections. Humans—as Augustine noted—are “desiring agents,” full of longings and passions; in brief, we are what we love” (Desiring the Kingdom, Baker Academic, 2009).

The quote from St. Augustine that Smith is referring to here is is the well-known prayer: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

The deepest desire of our heart is to rest in our God.

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