Jesus as Lord amidst the Leaves

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Autumn is a beautiful time of year in upstate New York. The trees boast of beautiful colors along the hillsides painting a gorge of grandeur. We went on an outing to Letchworth State Park, a visible sanctuary of splendor. During our hike, a scripture and a song were playing in my mind.

He who trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like foliage.
Proverbs 11:28 NKJV

While walking along the trails of the park, we noticed that multitudes of leaves had already fallen upon the ground. We became aware of the crunching sound under our feet. There was no visible beauty in the brown leaves that covered the ground and crumbled with each step we took. The withered yet crispy leaves were like the fallen riches mentioned in Proverbs 11. When we trust in riches, we trust in things that are uncertain and undependable. Like the dried leaves, riches can be blown away by the wind. It is possible for them to be here one day and gone the next. Leaves fall, and so can those who trust in riches. Proverbs 23:4 NLT warns, “Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit.” Another scripture to remember is I Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

What a contrast between the dry leaves beneath our feet and the leaves that still hung on the tree branches overhead! Splashes of orange, gold, red, yellow along with a few remaining green leaves remained attached to the sturdy arms of the tree. The fall foliage painted a pleasing portrait for the eye to behold. In John 15:5, Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Although Jesus uses the terms vine and branches, we can make the comparison of Jesus being the tree and we as believers are the leaves. Just as the fall foliage flourishes, so will believers flourish. Psalm 34:15 declares, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry.” and Psalm 55:22 says, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.

I will look up for there is none above You
I will bow down to tell You that I need You
Jesus Lord of all 

I will look back and see that You are faithful
I look ahead believing You are able
Jesus Lord of all, Jesus Lord of all

These phrases are part of the song I Will Look Up by Elevation Worship, and these are the words I was singing while hiking through the park. As we meandered along the trails, I was beholding the glory of God in nature and discerning His greatness supernaturally. When I looked up I saw the beauty of the leaves still attached to the tree and I realized that nothing was above our God, Creator of heaven and earth. (He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them– He remains faithful forever. Psalm 146:6) When I looked down, I saw dried leaves and I was reminded of my need of my Creator. (God, the LORD, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth.Isaiah 42:5 NLT) When I looked back upon the trail we were hiking, I saw again the natural beauty behind and the faithfulness of Jesus to guide every step I have ever taken. (Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. – John 14:6) When I looked ahead, I got another glimpse of the beauty of the park we had not yet seen and I also believed Jesus would guide each step I was yet to take throughout my life. (A person’s steps are directed by the LORD. How then can anyone understand their own way? – Proverbs 20:24)

Throughout this day, we became aware that fall was a good description of this season as we watched leaves fall from trees. Also, the fall foliage offered us a beauty not visible at any other time of year. There were lessons to be learned from the leaves we walked upon as well as the lovely leaves we stopped to gaze upon that were still attached to their branches. However, the primary lesson learned is declared in the final phrase I quoted from the song by Elevation Worship: “Jesus Lord of all!” Jesus was evident in everything we saw and experienced throughout our day at Letchworth State Park. Philippians 2:10-11 expresses it well, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow,, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (my emphasis) Other scriptures that confirm the lordship of Jesus are Romans 10:9 (If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.) and I Corinthians 12:3 (and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.) According to Wikipedia, “Jesus is Lord” is the shortest creed of faith expressed in the New Testament.

My Reader, will you declare with me, “Jesus is Lord”?


 

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Hand Held

Our country and our world are experiencing tumultuous times that are resulting in devastation and brokenness. As I lied in bed praying this morning before getting up, I envisioned two pictures in my mind that had spiritual implications for me

Within my spiritual mind I saw a little boy holding a small fishbowl in his hands while riding in the backseat of a car that was traveling along a curvy road at a rather high rate of speed. The little lad was trying his hardest to keep his pet goldfish inside the bowl while the water was violently sloshing around and spilling. I wondered if this was a picture of God holding our world in His hands. In reality, was the turmoil of the water in the fish bowl symbolizing the teeming downpours of the wind and rain of hurricanes this season? We have experienced tumultuous times with hurricanes Harvey plummeting Texas and Irma invading Florida long with Puerto Rico and other islands. Torrential downpours tormenting and taking lives and land! Whatever is happening around us, we must remember to reach out to the hand of God. Isaiah 59:19 NKJV tells us, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.”

The other image I saw with my spiritual eyes was a little girl playing with play dough or modeling clay. In the beginning the clay appeared to be crumbling and breaking apart. However as her little hands continued to consistently roll the clay in the warmth of her hands, she was able to form it into a ball and then affectionately shape it into a heart. While God holds our world in His hands, isn’t He desiring to lovingly mold us and our country into His likeness? In recent months, there have been eruptions of volcanoes and earthquakes in Mexico,  just over a week ago gunfire erupted in Las Vegas, and now we hear of wildfires erupting in northern and southern California with the northern fires being some of the worst in history. Eruptions and disruptions! Through it all, our country has experienced brokenness. However, God still holds our country and the whole world in His hands. Psalm 147:3 promises that, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Now that I am awake and functioning for the day, I am singing Glen Campbell’s song, He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands as a statement of faith and assurance. All of the negative and challenging things that have been happening around us, create in me a desire to remember that we and the world around us are held in the hands of God. When I think about God being able to hold our world in His hands, my perception of God and His size and power increases exponentially. I am reminded of Isaiah 40:12 that says, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, or with the breadth of His hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance?

Although things are not perfect within us or our world, I want to remember the words of Psalm 118:16 NLT, “The strong right arm of the LORD is raised in triumph. The strong right arm of the LORD has done glorious things!” I cling to the words of Psalm 95:4-6, “In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him. The sea is His, for He made it, and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.” I also like the assurance God gives in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

So, in conclusion, I declare to the Lord the words of David in Psalm 31:14, “My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.” I believe this because Psalm 89:13 says of the Lord, “Your arm is endowed with power; your hand is strong, your right hand exalted.” According to Psalm 16:8, “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” My Reader, will you join me in keeping the perspective of our country and world being in the hands of God? Will you agree with me in prayer that “His will be done on earth as it is in heaven?” Let us “Sing to the LORD a new song, for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him.” Psalm 98:1

Be a Prays-er

Prays-er” is a word used by Cindy Jacobs in the book Possessing the Gates of the Enemy. The uniqueness of this word Cindy created has given me much to think about. Most of us will say that we are pray-ers who talk to God asking for His help in situations in our own lives and in the lives of others. However, if I say I am a “prays-er” I am describing myself as a person who praises the Lord while I am praying. As a praiser, or prays-er, I choose to praise Him because of who He is, not because of what He does for me. I praise Him because He is the Creator of all things and the One who has given me life. I praise Him because He is my Savior, Lord, Healer, Deliverer, Defender, Provider, Protector, etc. He is loving, gracious, merciful and kind. God is good! He is worthy of my praise! Psalm 29:2 says, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.” I want to fulfill this scripture by being a prays-er.

Psalms is probably the best book of the Bible for references to praise. (My Reader, you may want to do more research on your own regarding praise scriptures as I cannot begin to be inclusive in what I share. I just want to create within you a desire to become a prays-er.) Psalm 145:3 is a good starting point for praise. “Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 100:4 instructs us, “Enter gates His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” Psalm 150:2 NLT says, “Praise Him for His mighty works; praise His unequaled greatness!” David and the other writers of the Psalms were definitely prays-ers!

As a leader of the Israelites, Moses sets an example of the importance of praise when he personally declares in Exodus 15:2, “The LORD is my strength and my defense; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise Him, my father’s God, and I will exalt Him.” Moses refers to the Israelites as well as himself when he says in Deuteronomy 10:21, “He alone is your God, the only one who is worthy of your praise, the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes.” Flipping a few more pages of our Bibles, we find other references to praise.
I
Chronicles 16:9 instructs, “Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts.” Reading a little further in this chapter, I Chronicles 16:25 says, “For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; He is to be feared above all gods.” None of these people limited their conversations with God to requests. They praised God for who He was. They were prays-ers!

Being a pray-er, requires more of us than asking God to help us and meet the needs of those around us. Paul says in Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Petitions are a part of prayer but so is praise. When we praise the Lord for who He is, we will worry less because we will become more aware of His character and nature. When we praise the Lord for who He is, our faith is built up and we have the confidence to thank Him for what He is going to do. Praise is a powerful part of prayer! Be a pray-er and a prays-er!

Since there are scriptural references to praise in both the Old and New Testaments, praise is not restricted to a particular time period. In Isaiah 43:21, the Lord declares, “the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim My praise.” This is amazing! One of the reasons God created us is so that we can become prays-ers! Moving into the New Testament. we read I Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” Praise is pertinent for us today! God desires our praise – He wants us to be prays-ers!

Acts 16:25-26 tells us, “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.” The combined power of prayer and praise resulted in freedom from the bondage of prison. The same wonder-working power of God is available to us. Paul and Silas are an awesome example of prays-ers!

Praise is mentioned in the apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation. Daniel 2:20 says, “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His.” John says in Revelation 5:11-12, “Then I looked, and I heard the voices of many angels and living creatures and elders encircling the throne, and their number was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’” It is interesting that the angels also praise the Lord. One of my favorites scriptures is Philippians 2:9-11, “God highly exalted Him (Jesus), and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This indicates to me that I will be a prays-er not only while I am alive on earth but throughout all eternity! What a privilege!

I am a pray-er, a person who prays (talks to God), but I am also a prays-er, a person who praises (lifts God up and honors Him for who He is). I acknowledge with the prophet in Isaiah 25:1, “LORD, you are my God; I will exalt You and praise Your name, for in perfect faithfulness You have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” I personally declare Psalm 104:33, “I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.” and Psalm 145:1-2, I will exalt You, my God the King; I will praise Your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever.”

My Reader, will you be a person who praises the Lord in addition to being a person who prays to God? I encourage you with the words of Hebrews 13:15, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess His name.” Be a prays-er!

Remember (re-member) with Communion (come in union)

communion-2

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In many churches, the first Sunday of October is observed as World Communion Sunday. With this emphasis in mind, let us take time to think about this sacrament today. According to a note in the Life Application Bible for Matthew 26:26, there are three names that reveal three aspects of the Lord’s Supper. First, it is referred to as the Lord’s Supper because it commemorates the Passover meal Jesus ate with His disciples. Secondly, it is called the Eucharist, the Greek word for thanksgiving or gratitude, because we thank God for Christ’s work for us. Lastly, it is denoted as Communion because it is through participating in this sacrament that we commune with God and other believers. Each name that may be used for this sacrament brings out a different dimension of it.

No matter which term is used, I ask, “Why do we as Christians observe this sacrament?” Jesus answers this question in scripture.

Do this in remembrance of me.”
Luke 22:19b

When Jesus spoke these words, He took two traditional parts of the Passover meal, the passing of bread and the drinking of wine, and gave them new meaning as representations of His body and blood. He used the bread and wine to explain what He was about to do on the cross. He was asking His disciples to remember Him and what He would accomplish through dying on the cross. This is what He continues to ask us to do when we observe this sacred meal with the body of believers. Jesus tells us what to do and why to do it.

Although the term Communion is not used in scripture, it is the term I am thinking about today. Join me as I develop my own interpretations of the words COMMUNION and REMEMBER as they relate to the celebration of this Christian sacrament.

So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh
of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise
him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.’”
John 6:53-56

When I look at the word COMMUNION, I dissect the word to say “Come in union.” The word invites me to come into union with Christ by partaking of the elements of bread and wine, or grape juice. The bread is a symbol of His body and the wine is a symbol of His blood. There is nothing magical that turns bread and wine or grape juice into the body of Jesus, but they are symbolic of Him. It reminds me that Christ and I are one. John 17:21 NLT records Jesus’ prayer for all believers, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” Jesus prayed for a unity in mind and spirit to exist between Himself and all those who believe in Him. Paul speaks of the reality of this in I Corinthians 6:17, “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.” In the verses from John 6 that were quoted at the beginning of this paragraph, Jesus describes the partaking of the bread and wine as being an act that allows us as believers to come into union with Him.

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you,
that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread;
and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body,
which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He
took
the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in
My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the
Lord’s death until He comes.
I Corinthians 11:23-26

In these verses, Paul is remembering what Jesus did for him. He is also giving all believers the same privilege of partaking of these elements of bread and wine when they understand and remember that Jesus died for them and the forgiveness of their sins. The bread and wine are symbols to remind Christ’s followers through the ages of His redemptive sacrifice. As I correlate the word REMEMBER with the word COMMUNION, I divide the word as “re-member.” The prefix “re” means again while the word “member” denotes a person who is part of a group. With this concept in mind, I view communion as an opportunity to join with the family of God with Jesus. Romans 12:5 says, “so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” I am a part of the this family because of Jesus’ body being broken and His blood poured out for me. John 1:12 NLT says, “But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God.” When I am re-membered with the family of believers, I am privileged to remember what Jesus did for me and to come in union with this body of believers when celebrating the sacrament of Communion.

Whether we use the term Lord’s Supper or Eucharist or Communion, this sacrament is observed in all Christian churches. Some bodies of believers celebrate this sacred meal every week, some once a month, while others maybe only once every quarter or every three months. However we choose to observe it, the important thing is to obey the words of Jesus, “Do this in remembrance of me” as stated in Luke 22:19b.

This Sunday we will have the privilege to come in union with other believers around the world to observe Word Communion Sunday and remember again the actions of Christ. As we partake of Communion and remember what Christ did for us, may we first and foremost come in union with Jesus and then come in union with other believers as we re-member, think again, of what Christ did to make it possible for us to re-member, be made one again, with the family of God.

 


Childlike or Childish?

Childlike    Childish    Childlike   Childish    Childlike   Childish  Childlike   Childish    Childlike

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So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
Galatians 3:26

Through faith in God, I became part of His family and now I am known as a child of God. Daily, it is my choice as to how I behave as His child. I can be childlike or I can be childish. Childlike is defined as resembling a child showing pleasing qualities such as innocence and trust. In contrast, childish is described as being marked by immaturity and a lack of poise.

Most young children trust their father and run to him with open arms ready to receive his love. They are not consumed with cares and worries because they know Dad will provide. As a child of God, I have the same privileges from a spiritual perspective. My Heavenly Father desires a personal loving relationship with me. My thoughts and actions reveal whether I am childlike or childish. If I am childlike, I will love my Heavenly Father and trust Him with my life. If I am childish, I will demand my way and I may cry if I do not feel like I have my Father’s complete attention. Yes, I desire to be childlike, but if I am honest, there have been times when I not felt loved by my Heavenly Father. There have been times when I have cried out to God in my prayers asking “Why?” or “Where are You?”

Young children grow up and eventually leave their childhood homes to become independent adults. However, as a child of God, I do not want to grow up and move away – I only want to grow deeper and closer to Him.

But Jesus called the children to him and said,
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them,
for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
Luke 18:16

In this section of scripture, people were bringing their children to Jesus desiring Him to bless their little ones while the disciples felt this was an imposition upon Jesus and they told the people to leave. Jesus contradicted His disciples and reached out to the children surrounding Him. Oh, how I appreciate the privilege of coming into the presence of Jesus and receiving His blessings because I am a child of God!

Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore,
whoever then humbles himself like this child, he is the
greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:3-4

This chapter of Matthew begins with the disciples asking Jesus who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus responds by pointing out the characteristic of humility – not necessarily a quality of the disciples at this time. James 4:6 says, “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: ‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’” I desire to be a humble King’s kid!

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,
but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct,
in love, in faith and in purity.
I Timothy 4:12

Being a child of God does not mean that I just get to play – that would be childish. John 6:1-13 tells of Jesus feeding the 5000 because a boy offered Him five small barley loaves and two small fish. This child did something no one else did that day. He was not worried about what Jesus would do with what he had, he just gave it trustingly. I want to follow the example of this young boy and set an example by my speech and conduct as to how to live as a child of God.

But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’
You must go to everyone I send you to and say
whatever I command you.
Jeremiah 1:7

Jeremiah was a young boy when the Lord touched his lips with a coal to prepare him to speak. As a child of God, I can expect my Heavenly Father to equip me to do whatever He calls me to do. If I am afraid, I would be more childish than childlike. In Psalm 139:13, David tells about his Heavenly Father creating his inmost being and knitting him together in his mother’s womb. Then in Jeremiah 29:11, the Lord tells Jeremiah of His plans and purposes that would give him a hope and a future. Exodus 2:1-10 gives the account of how Moses as a baby was left in a basket in the river, but God took care of him. Neither will God neglect me because He has a plan for me just as He had plans for David and Jeremiah and Moses.

Then you will call on Me
and come and pray to Me,
and I will listen to you.
Jeremiah 29:12

When reading this verse from Jeremiah, I picture myself as a child of God climbing into the lap of my Heavenly Father and having a two-way conversation with Him. This is known as prayer! Our Heavenly Father wants to embrace all of us as His sons and daughters. No matter what our biological age, we can be His spiritual children. Most of us may tend to have times when we act childish if things do not go the way we want physically or spiritually. However, our Holy Father is always ready to help us be more childlike in both respects. My Reader, do you live as a child of God? Your Heavenly Father is waiting for you.


A Tenderized Heart

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In a recent conversation with my daughter-in-law, she made reference to there being a time when God tenderizes our hearts while He prepares us for something more. When I first think of tenderizing something, I relate it to the process of breaking down tough spots in meat before it is grilled. Can I find any similarities between tenderizing a steak and tenderizing our hearts? Let us answer this question by looking at a couple of scripture verses in Ezekiel.

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes
Ezekiel 36:26-27

A heart of stone is a heart full of sin. Jeremiah 17:9 NLT describes the condition of the heart by saying, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” This verse confirms my need of a new heart! A heart of stone refers to a hardened heart that refuses to hear from God. Ephesians 4:18 NLT states, “Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against Him.” Only God can change this condition of a person’s heart. Being born again is how God replaces a heart of stone with a heart of flesh. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:7, “You must be born again.” (To apply the meat tenderizing process, I might say that thawing a hard frozen steak is similar to removing the hardened heart of stone.)

By accepting the new birth offered to us by Jesus Christ, we can be born again and our sins are forgiven. God’s forgiveness removes the sin and stone from our hearts. Going back to my primary scripture for today, Ezekiel describes the heart now as a heart of flesh. Flesh is softer than stone but the Lord offers more. Paul warns in Philippians 3:3 that we are to “put no confidence in the flesh.” (For tenderizing meat, I can say that when the steak is thawed it becomes a pliable piece of beef.)

Referring back to Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus says in John 3:5-6, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” One’s heart can still be tremendously influenced by fleshly, or earthly, desires even though the heart no longer is a hardened stone. The flesh continues to require the help of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promises us in John 14:26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Now looking closely at the words of Ezekiel, he promises not only a new heart but also a new spirit in verse 26. This new spirit is the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:5-6 says, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” This Old Testament promise of a new spirit recorded in Ezekiel is fulfilled in the New Testament scripture of II Corinthians 1:21-22, “Now it is God who establishes both us and you in Christ. He anointed us, placed His seal on us, and put His Spirit in our hearts as a pledge of what is to come. (The work of the Holy Spirit symbolizes the tenderizing process. When meat is allowed to marinate in specific ingredients, “tough stuff” is broken down.)

I want to further develop this concept of tenderizing our hearts. Before I put a piece of meat into a marinade, often I will pierce it with a fork so the marinade, acting as a tenderizer, will penetrate into the meat more deeply. Now consider this from a spiritual perspective. We all encounter experiences when our hearts of flesh feel as if they are pierced with challenges. However, the Lord works in these poked holes of our sensitive hearts. He will also convict us of any sin that might piece our hearts so we will confess our sin.  The Lord’s desire is to pour the Holy Spirit into our hearts so that not only is the Holy Spirit upon us as a seal but the Spirit penetrates our hearts and flesh. We are baptized, or immersed, in the Holy Spirit. This is first recorded in Acts 2:4, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” I believe the Spirit works within us to tenderize our hearts towards Him before He can move in our lives through more manifestations and revelations of His nature and character. Once again looking at Ezekiel, we notice in verse 27 that the outcome of our tenderized heart is that “He will cause us to walk in His ways.” The New English Translation says, “I will take the initiative and you will obey.” This is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit. We no longer have a hardened heart or just a heart of flesh but a heart controlled by the Holy Spirit. We may have to chew on a tough steak, just like we may need to meditate upon what the Lord is showing us. However, it is easier for us to enjoy and digest a more tender steak. Similarly, we can more easily comprehend the will of God and enjoy serving Him for kingdom purposes when the Holy Spirit has softened our hearts toward the things of God. One final similarity I find interesting is that many marinade recipes include olive oil, and oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit in scripture. Acts 10:38 says, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with Him.”

Colossians 3:12 NLT admonishes us, “Since God chose you to be the holy people He loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” A tender heart has a softened quality of being gentle, affectionate and compassionate. It is sensitive, pliable and yielding to the Spirit of God. Tenderizing one’s heart is part of the process of a deep commitment to the Lord. Let the tenderizing begin!

 

 

 

Dispatching a Convoy of Hope

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As I begin my post for today, I want to make two important disclaimers. First, I am not asking for anyone to support or give money to any specific need. Secondly, I am not campaigning for any particular organization.

This past Sunday, September 3, was set aside as a day of prayer for Texas after Hurricane Harvey by Texan Governor Abbott. President Trump also issued a proclamation that this day was to be a national Day of Prayer for the Victims of Hurricane Harvey and our National Response and Recovery Efforts. In accordance with these requests, our church congregation took time during our worship service to focus upon this vital need. First, our pastor shared about the organization Convoy of Hope  being a trustworthy organization to support for relief efforts. He told of how this organization currently has semis loaded with necessary items waiting to be dispatched into specific areas. However, he went on to say that these people have spiritual needs that cannot be met by these trucks. This focus led us into a time of prayer.

While I agreed with everything that was said and done Sunday morning, since then a spiritual image has been forming in my mind that goes beyond the needs of those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Please follow along with me as we physically and spiritually unpack the meanings of three words in the phrase “Dispatching a Convoy of Hope.”

Dispatching

As I look on Google for a definition for “dispatching”, I find such phrases as “sending off to a destination for a purpose” and “dealing with a task quickly and efficiently.” Currently, the organization Convoy of Hope is sending out semi trucks loaded with supplies to help provide the immediate physical needs of people encountering the effects of Hurricane Harvey. Spiritually, dispatching can be a term used to describe praying. When we come before the Lord in prayer, we are sending off to the throne of heaven our requests. We have faith in God to efficiently fulfill the requests we present to Him. Although the answers may not be evident as quickly as we might like, we can trust that the answers will be received in God’s best timing. Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Convoy

A convoy is described as a group of vehicles traveling together. This is an accurate description of the numerous trucks traveling together to deliver supplies to those in Texas as this moment. After their deliveries, the vehicles will return to their home base until there is another need requiring their assistance. Let’s take a look at our prayer picture. I can see multitudes of spiritual semis full of prayers moving towards the destination of heaven and another convoy of answers returning to the senders. These spiritual semis never return empty. I John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of Him.

Hope

The goal of Convoy for Hope is to “provide help and hope to those who are impoverished, hungry and hurting.” Their website informs us that they have been delivering hope since 1994.  I love the imagery of truckloads of hope being delivered into people’s lives. Spiritual hope is described in Romans 8:24-25, “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.” Romans 15:13 says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Take a moment to imagine with me God filling His spiritual semis with a convoy of hope as answers to the prayers we dispatch to Him. What a beautiful picture of hope overflowing from semi trucks whether they be physical or spiritual vehicles.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize what a privilege it is for God to allow us to be part of His convoy that dispatches hope. Romans 12:12 summarizes this well by stating, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Sometimes we may partake in a convoy that delivers physical help and hope while we can always be part of the spiritual convoy of hope through our prayers. For now, let us not only continue to dispatch prayers for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, but let us also pray that Hurricane Irma will weaken and go out to sea rather than striking the state of Florida and islands off its coast and/or other southeastern coastal states of the United States with another category 5 hurricane.