Sing America

There are numerous patriotic songs that are part of our nation’s history. My Country ‘Tis of Thee, also known as America, is one of my favorites. The lyrics of My Country ‘Tis of Thee were written by Samuel Francis Smith. Smith gave his lyrics to Lowell Mason and the words were applied to the English melody of God Save the Queen. This patriotic song was first performed by a children’s choir in Boston, Massachusetts on July 4, 1831. It is a song that combines faith and patriotism. It was given strong consideration as our country’s national anthem.

Let’s take time to think about this song through words and pictures as we celebrate, July 4th, Independence Day, the birth of our nation.

My country, ’tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From ev’ry mountainside,

Let freedom ring!

Flowers or Followers

Because of limited vision, I sometimes misread words when I scan something too quickly. This happened when I misread the word “followers” as “flowers.” There is a similarity of letters in both words! I believe God wanted to reveal something through my inaccuracy.

Flowers and followers are both found in God’s garden – the world. Song of Solomon 2:12 says, “Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed the breath of life into his nostrils, and the man became a living being.”

“Come, follow Me” were Jesus’ words when He called His disciples. (see Matthew 4:19) Today, Jesus invites us to follow Him. Jesus says in John 12:26, “Whoever serves Me must follow Me.”

Lysa TerKerst has written, “The more we follow Jesus, the more we fall in love with Him, want to obey Him, experience life with Him, and become a beacon of light to others through Him.”

Scripture compares flowers and followers. Luke 12:27-28 says, “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you?” Flowers exemplify growth and beauty. As followers, may the beauty of Christ be seen in us as we spiritually grow in our relationship with Him. Luke points out that God cares for flowers that bloom for a limited time. Then, he highlights that God loves and cares for followers who will be with Him throughout eternity.

Jesus refers to the lilies of the field in Matthew 6:28-33. He encourages His followers not to worry in the same verse. He gives the assurance that God will provide for flowers and followers. Jesus concludes by saying in verse 33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” As followers, there is no cause for us to worry because Ephesians 3:20 tells us that “God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.”

Not just one flower. Not only one follower. A floral garden displays a variety of flowers. Each flower proudly portrays it beauty whether it be a daisy or a dahlia – maybe even a dandelion. The body of Christ is made up of His followers. I Corinthians 12:12 describes the body of Christ saying,the body is a unit, though it is composed of many parts. And although its parts are many, they all form one body.” Ephesians 4:15 says, “speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

Whether we refer to flowers or followers, growth takes place when the sun or Son is shining. Flowers require sunshine to grow naturally. Followers need Sonshine to grow spiritually. II Peter 3:18 says, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Flowers in full bloom flourish as sunbeams radiate upon them. Have you noticed how a blossom will naturally turn towards the sun? The faces of followers beam with spiritual brilliance when turning their faces towards the Son of God. Psalm 34:5 says, “Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” I am reminded of the words of an old hymn. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in His wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Our attention can be captured by the fragrance of flowers. God’s attention is captured by the sweet aroma of His followers. II Corinthians 2:115 says, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” I like the wording of the New Living Translation, “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.” As followers of Christ, we are to be His fragrance to those around us while flowers fill the air with a sweet perfume.

Flowers and followers reveal beauty. Ecclesiastes 3:11 declares, “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Flowers display an external natural beauty. Followers manifest an internal spiritual beauty. A flower depicts the beauty of Christ. A follower proclaims the good news of Christ. As we gaze upon the flowers around us, may we be reminded that we are Christ’s followers.

Maybe as followers of Christ, we are to be flowers for Christ. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Pop for Pop

Sunday will be the day we set aside to honor fathers. Fathers are known by various names: Father – Dad – Daddy – Papa. Our son-in-law often referred to his father as Pop. Pop, known to me as Dan, was a wonderful godly man. He went home to be with Jesus 22 years ago because of multiple sclerosis. However, Jamey still sets aside special time to honor his dad in a unique way every Father’s Day.

Dan’s favorite soft drink (sometimes known as pop) was Dr. Pepper. On Father’s Day, Jamey takes his children to the cemetery where his dad is buried. They sit by his gravestone and share a can of Dr. Pepper while Jamey shares memories of his dad. It is a time for Jamey to remember his father and a time for his children to get acquainted with the grandpa they never met in person.

Jamey is not the only person to share insight of his father through story telling. While dwelling on the earth, Jesus revealed His Heavenly Father through His words and actions. He told stories about His Father. He is the Son of God and Son of Man. Jesus and Philip have a conversation in John 14:6-11. Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

Jamey is a son of Dad Dan. His children now know Grandpa Dan through stories their dad has shared. However, they have also come to know Grandpa Dan through the lifestyle of their dad. Jamey honors his Pop not only when he shares a soda and a story with his children but also through the life he lives every day. Having known Dan and now knowing Jamey, I know fatherhood is honored in this family. This is true physically and spiritually. Jamey also shares about his Heavenly Father with his children.

God spoke to Moses about honoring fathers when He gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

In Psalm 145, David gives us an example of verbally honoring our Heavenly Father. Verse 4 says, “One generation commends Your works to another; they tell of Your mighty acts.” In verse 21, he concludes, “My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever.”

I encourage you to honor your biological father this Sunday on Father’s Day. If possible, spend time with him in person. Maybe a phone call or a Zoom chat if personal contact is not an option. If he has passed on, take a few moments to remember his place in your life. Share your memories with your family. Tell stories. I also encourage you to spend time with your spiritual father. Your Heavenly Father is only a prayer away. Thank Him for what He has done in your life. Prioritize time with Him so you will have the father/son or daughter relationship of being one with Him as exemplified by Jesus. Jesus prayed in John 17:20-21 for all believers. I am not asking on behalf of them alone, but also on behalf of those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You. May they also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.

This coming Sunday, uniquely celebrate Father’s Day. Find your own way to have pop with your Pop.

Happy Father’s Day to all men who have the privilege of being a dad. We honor you while we also honor our Heavenly Father.

A Beautiful Beloved Bride

June is a popular month for weddings and brides. However, our family’s beautiful bride walked down the aisle in April. She has inspired my thoughts for today.

After many alterations to a dress that was not all it appeared to be online, Charity was adorned as a bride for John. She was beautiful. She was radiant. Her face was beaming. Her dad summarized it well by saying, “Most brides are beautiful because of their dress. Charity made her dress beautiful.” His statement has given me much to ponder.

Charity is a young lady who is beautiful inside and out. She exudes both spiritual and physical beauty. She has heeded the warning of I Peter 3:3-4. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. She proclaims Isaiah 61:10. I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

The Oxford Dictionary defines natural beauty as a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight. I want to suggest a definition for spiritual beauty. A combination of qualities, such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control. In other words, a beauty manifesting the fruit of the Spirit according to Galatians 5:22-23. This beauty does not originate with makeup applied to the skin. True beauty comes from within the heart. When we are beautiful on the inside, it will be reflected on the outside.

The imagery and symbolism of the Bride of Christ is exemplified throughout scripture.

The church is comprised of people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. The church is known as the Bride of Christ. Proverbs31:25 NLT describes the spiritual Bride of Christ. She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.

Isaiah 62:5 says, “As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”

In Ephesians 5:26-27, we learn that Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy. He cleansed her by washing her with water through the word in order to present her to Himself as a radiant church without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish. Christ makes us, the church, holy and blameless. He concentrates on inner spiritual beauty.

The book of Revelation highlights the Bride of Christ. John tells us in Revelation 21:2, “I saw the Holy City, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” Revelation 21:9 says, “One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’”

It has been said that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. As a bride, Charity was exceptionally beautiful in the eyes of her bridegroom, John. Spiritually, we as the Bride of Christ, are beautiful in His eyes. Our spiritual beauty is the type of beauty that is visible to the Lord.

Song of Solomon 4:1 begins, “How beautiful you are, My darling! Oh, how beautiful!” We are beautiful in Christ’s eyes because He forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases. He redeems our lives from the pit and crowns us with love and compassion. (see Psalm 103:1-5)

There will be numerous young ladies adorned as brides walking down the aisle to their bridegrooms this month. However, none will compare to the Bride of Christ with Christ the Bridegroom. The bride of Christ is gloriously radiant because she is the redeemed of the Bridegroom. The Bride of Christ is holy and pure. She will be wearing garments of holiness and righteousness. The brides who will be united in marriage with their grooms this month will be beautiful. However, no natural beauty will equal the spiritual beauty evident within the Bride of Christ.

The Lord says in Jeremiah 31:3, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jesus Christ loves you and desires you to be His beautiful bride. He is the Bridegroom waiting for all who accept Him as their personal Savior. Have you walked down the aisle of salvation? You can do so today if you have not yet made this commitment. Be the radiant bride of Christ!

(If you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior today, please send me a note. I want to rejoice with you and pray for you.)

Seed – Feed – WEED (3)

We took a break from our gardening theme to highlight Memorial Day last week.  Now we will focus upon our final week of  Seed – Feed – Weed. We planted the seeds. We fed, or fertilized, the new plants. Now we have to pull a few weeds. We will spend time in a natural garden in the soil and the spiritual garden of the heart.

As we survey our flower gardens, we should be encouraged by the plants that are growing nicely. Soon we will have blossoms to enjoy. However, we most likely will also notice some straggly green things growing that do not look like they came from the seeds we planted. These green things are better known as weeds. We must pull out these unwanted growths before they consume our flower beds.

When we examine the garden of our hearts, I hope we see Christ living in us. Colossians 1:27 says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.We must not allow this hope of glory to get crowded out of our spiritual gardens. Consequently, there may be a few weeds to pull.

I am not a botanist. It is not necessary for me to identify the specific variety of weeds I am pulling from my botanical garden. For me, weeds are just weeds. My goal is to simply get rid of the pesky plants. However, it is different in the garden of our hearts. In order to pull out weeds that want to overtake our hearts, we must identify them.

Fear is a common weed that tries to take root. We can eradicate fear by allowing love to flourish in our heart’s garden.

Peter is an example of a man who experienced the weed of fear. On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter was fearful of what would happen if he acknowledged he was a follower of Jesus. He denied Jesus three times. (see John 19:15-27) After His resurrection, Jesus questioned Peter about his devotion. Three times He asked Peter if he loved Him. (see John 21:15-18) Jesus helped Peter replace fear with love. Peter’s spiritual growth is evident in his sermon at Pentecost. (see Acts 2:14-41)

I John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.May lovely blossoms of love burst into bloom in the garden of our hearts.

Doubt, another weed, must be pulled out by its roots so the seed of faith can grow. We should not allow doubt to consume our spiritual gardens. James 1:6 says, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.The seeds of weeds travel quickly when blown by the wind. Think of the dandelion. A puffball of seeds airborne by the wind will result in an abundance of yellow flowers.

After pulling out the weeds of doubt, we can anxiously await the growth of faith flowers. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.It will take time for faith to grow in our hearts and become visible. Jesus says in John 11:40, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?

The worry weed can be hard to control. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Peace posies grow and bloom when worry weeds are eradicated from our heart’s gardens.

In John 16, Jesus told His disciples that He would leave them but the Holy Spirit would come to them. Although they did not comprehend His words, Jesus concluded by saying in John 16:33, I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.Worldly worry weeds will try to grow. However, we must not let them overtake our hearts. Philippians 4:8-9 tells us how to get rid of these weeds. “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in Me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Sometimes it may take more effort to pull out weeds than we anticipate. Roots can go deeper than expected – physically and spiritually. However, we must be willing to get rid of the weeds that are taking up space. We must be careful to not allow our gardens to become overgrown with weeds that hide summer’s beauty. Encourage new flowers to grow and spread.

Spiritually, let us bloom where we are planted. Allow the beauty of Jesus be be seen. Psalm 90:17 NKJV says, “Let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us.” 

A garden is a place of life – whether it be the soil or the soul. Plants push back dirt and promises push back doubt. Weeds and worries must be yanked out. Allow flowers and faith to emerge. Both types of gardens are precious in God’s sight.