Persevere in Baking and Living

I baked a cake this morning. First of all, I measured and combined all of the ingredients. The cake batter was a thin mixture that I poured into a pan. Then came the baking process in the oven. A change occurred while it was in the hot box. A baked cake holds it shape and stands alone. If it had not baked long enough before I took it from the oven, the middle of the cake would have settled because it was still doughy. Cake is not cake until it is baked.

Living life can be like baking a cake.

I combined flour, sugar, eggs and a few other ingredients to make the cake batter. God has certain ingredients for His recipe for life. Romans 5:3-5 states, “We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” Perseverance, character and hope are a few of God’s ingredients. Similar to how I poured milk into my cake batter, God pours love into our lives.

Although not as sweet as sugar, perseverance is a life ingredient. However, perseverance can also be part of the baking process.

James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you face trials of many kinds, knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Trials can put us in a hot box that feels like an oven. However, we are to persevere to become mature in our faith. As our faith matures, we will become like a baked cake. We will be able to stand up for our beliefs in God. We will not be lacking in anything. We will not fall in the middle like an under baked cake.

A few verses later, James 1:12 declares, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” James mentions a test. Often I stick a toothpick in the middle of a baking cake to test if it is thoroughly baked and ready to come out of the oven. We may need to be tested to see if we are worthy of the crown of life the Lord has for us.

I Peter 4:12 says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” A test results in a testimony. When we go through fiery trials, we come out with a testimony. Revelation 12:11 says that we overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

Galatians 6:9 NLT warns, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Like a cake that needs to be removed from the oven at the proper time, so will we overcome our difficult situation at the right time. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” God knows the proper time for all things.

God is making something beautiful out of our lives. I Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” God will not allow us to be burned to a crisp. Lysa Terkeurst writes in It’s Not Supposed to be This Way, “God doesn’t expect us to handle this, He wants us to hand this over to Him. God doesn’t want us to rely on our own strength. He wants us to rely totally on His strength.” Let us proclaim Philippians 4:13, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

If I had not put my cake batter in the oven, I would not have created an edible delicacy. The dough had to bake in the oven. So it is for us when we are placed in the hot box of life. Romans 8:38-39 says, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The Lord will always be with us while we are going through a baking and making process. In Jesus Calling, Sarah Young writes as the voice of Jesus saying, “I know precisely what you need to draw nearer to Me. Go through each day looking for what I have prepared for you. Accept every event as My hand-tailored provision for your needs. When you view your life this way, the most reasonable response is to be thankful. Do not reject any of my gifts; find Me in every situation.”

I want to highlight one more scripture that relates to perseverance. Hebrews 12:1 says, “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,.” Whether it be baking a cake or walking through difficult situations in life, we are encouraged to persevere. We need to keep the proper perspective. God is not doing this to us, but He will use it for our good. We can persevere with the promise of God’s help.

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Just Like Dad

You are just like your father!”

These are six powerful words. Have you ever spoken them? Have you ever heard these words spoken to you? They can create either positive or negative feelings. Since we will be honoring fathers this coming Sunday, let’s think about the potential meanings of this proclamation.

You are just like your father!”

These words may refer to a likeness in physical appearance or emotional temperament or spiritual beliefs. If there is a good father-child relationship, this phrase can be received as a compliment. The father may be fulfilling Proverbs 22:6 NKJV, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.A father’s positive influence is invaluable.

The same words have painful potential if the father and child do not have a good rapport. A dad’s behavior by words and actions greatly influences his children. Colossians 3:17 is a good reminder for all fathers, “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

You are just like your father!”

This statement may be one of the best compliments anyone can receive! Genesis 1:27 tells us, “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.This gives everyone the privilege of being just like their father – their Heavenly Father of whom they can be proud. I John 4:8 says, “God is love.” Love is the nature of our Heavenly Father. We have the potential to love if we are like our Father. I John 4:19 says, “We love because He first loved us.Fathers love children and children love fathers.

Jesus sets a good example of a loving father in Mark 10:13-16. In verse 14, Jesus says, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.And in verse 16 “He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

Fathers, you have the potential and the privilege of being just like your Heavenly Father. However, this trait is not something to be taken lightly. Galatians 6:7 warns, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Unless an earthly father is a positive role model for his children, he will not be known as being just like his Heavenly Father.

Fathers, you have the best role model for fulfilling your responsibilities of being a dandy dad. Be “just like your Heavenly Father” so your children will be honored to hear the phrase “you are just like your father” spoken to them.

Happy Father’s Day to all dads!

Progressing Spiritually

I am challenged by Sarah Young’s statement in Jesus Always, “Your life is a gift from Me, consisting of millions upon millions of moments.” I stop to ask myself, “How do I fill my millions of moments? What opportunities exist within these multiple moments?” Jesus’ response to my questions is found within more of Sarah’s words, “Fill your moments with My presence.”

Millions upon millions” is a phrase that causes me to think about several spiritual progressions.

Glory to Glory
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord,
are changed into the same image from glory to glory,
even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
I Corinthians 3:18 NKJV

In Qualities of a Spiritual Warrior, Graham Cooke says we are always learning how to be changed from glory to glory into God’s likeness. “In Christ” is our starting point. “Christ in us” is our finishing point. We move from the first glorious state of salvation to our destiny as sons and daughters of the Most High. Cooke points out that each stage we pass though reveals more of God’s nature. The New International Version of I Corinthians 3:18 uses the words, “being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory.

Daily, the Holy Spirit promotes Christ to us and Christ in us as the hope of glory. Our Heavenly Father deals with us through the context of eternal glory. Glory to glory.

Let’s consider another progression.

Grace upon Grace
For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
John 1:16 NASB

Hebrews 4:16 says, “We draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

There is grace – and then there is more grace. There is an inexhaustible supply of grace always available to us!

The New International Version uses the phrase, “received grace in place of grace already given.” This could mean that old grace is replaced with new grace. As we grow from glory to glory, our understanding of grace increases. So, we gain new grace. We can never deplete His supply of grace. God always extends grace upon grace.

Faith to Faith
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith;
as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH
Romans 1:17 NASB

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Our faith grows as our walk with the Lord deepens. We go from glory to glory as we receive grace upon grace. This results in our growing from faith to faith. Ephesians 2:8 declares, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

Faith is not passive. Right words, right thoughts, right actions – all allow us to grow from faith to faith.

Line upon Line
Precept upon Precept
Whom will he teach knowledge?
And whom will he make to understand the message? . . .
For precept
must be upon precept, precept upon precept,
Line upon line, line upon line. Here a little, there a little.”
Isaiah 28:9-10 NKJV

II Timothy 3:14-17 validates the words of Isaiah. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Our understanding of God grows when we repeatedly read the precepts and lines of scripture. Hearing the same Bible stories again and again influences nd increases our faith. Throughout our spiritual walk, we continually gain a deeper knowledge of God’s Word.

Little by Little
The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little.
You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once,
or the wild animals will multiply around you.
Deuteronomy 7:22

Whatever progression we may be encountering, we will always go from level to level little by little. This can be difficult because we want what we want now. We do not like waiting.

The writer of Deuteronomy refers to “little by little” as the means by which the Israelites would conquer their enemies in the Promised Land. God told His people that He was going to deliver them little by little. He knew that if everything happened at once, it would not be good for them. He was taking them on a journey and teaching them to trust Him and follow His leading.

Victoria Osteen has written, “I believe God is doing the same with you and me today. He is leading us, little by little. He’s teaching us to trust, little by little. He is revealing His plan, little by little. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Don’t get frustrated when things are not happening as quickly as you’d like. Just thank God that you are moving forward. Trust in His timing. Trust that He has your best interest at heart. Trust that He is leading you into victory as you keep moving forward, little by little!”

We are given millions and millions of moments to grow in our relationship with the Lord. Moment by moment we progress into His presence. However, we must remember that we never experience any of these progressions in our own power. In Zechariah 4:6, the Lord says,Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.Receive the power of the Holy Spirit! Allow the Spirit to lead you from glory to glory through grace upon grace so you may increase faith to faith. Learn line upon line and precept upon precept. Little by little, you will draw closer to God because James 4:8 says, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.

Let us fill our millions of moments with God’s presence!

I conclude with the words of the old hymn Moment by Moment by Daniel Whittle.

Dying with Jesus, by death reckoned mine;
Living with Jesus, a new life divine;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine,
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

(Refrain) Moment by moment I’m kept in His love;
Moment by moment I’ve life from above;
Looking to Jesus till glory doth shine;
Moment by moment, O Lord, I am Thine.

Never a trial that He is not there,
Never a burden that He doth not bear,
Never a sorrow that He doth not share,
Moment by moment, I under His care;
(Refrain)

Never a heartache and never a groan,
Never a teardrop and never a moan;
Never a danger, but there on the throne,
Moment by moment, He thinks of His own.
(Refrain)

Never a weakness that He doth not feel,
Never a sickness that He cannot heal;
Moment by moment, in woe or in weal,
Jesus, my Saviour, abides with me still.
(Refrain)

 

 

 

 

Coloring Inside and Outside the Lines

As a child, I remember spending many hours coloring pictures in coloring books. I took pride in my creations. Today, there are coloring books for all ages – even adults. We never outgrow our desire or ability to create. In Genesis 1 we learn that God created the heavens and the earth. Then in Genesis 2, we read that God made us in His image. We like to create because God creates. I believe there are both natural and spiritual coloring books. God gives us the opportunity to color our lives. Some of us may prefer to color inside the lines while others may want to venture outside the lines of life. Both are artistic expressions.

Scripture draws some lines of life within which we can color. In the Old Testament, the Ten Commandments give us some guidelines. These are found in Exodus 20:2-17. In the New Testament, Jesus condenses these lines to two commandments. Matthew 22:37-39 says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Scripture also gives us the opportunity to color outside the lines. In Genesis 12:1, the Lord told Abram to leave his country. Abram, later known as Abraham, colored outside the lines. He obeyed God without having any specific lines to follow. In Mark 16:15, Jesus told the disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” Going into the world does not define very many lines.

Jabez colored outside the lines. In I Chronicles 4:10 Jabez cried out to God, “Oh, that You would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let Your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain. And God granted his request.” God allowed Jabez to color outside the lines and create a bigger picture.

The Bible gives us crayons for our coloring project. Rather than referring to them as crayons, scripture lists nine fruit of the Spirit with which we can color our lives. Galatians 5:22-23 describes our spiritual crayons as, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” Colossians 3:12 offers us a few more color options.Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

II Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” The lines of life are not drawn with indelible ink. Neither are they printed upon color-by-number pages. The Holy Spirit may even inspire us to color outside our comfort zone. There is no perfect color perspective. However, our best pictures will be designed by the Holy Spirit.

God has given each of us our own coloring book. Every day we pick up crayons and make our mark. Some days we stay inside the lines and do everything perfectly. We color with lovely lavenders, passionate pinks and gracious greens. We may choose to add highlights of glorious golds. Peace will be portrayed in the picture. Other days we may grab a pencil of gray and scribble all over the page defying the designs of the printed page. These pages will reflect frustrating days of turmoil. Philippians 4:13 NLT says, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” That includes creative coloring no matter what color crayon we hold in our hands.

My Reader, grab a few crayons and color a picture in your coloring book of life. Your picture may not be perfect, but that is OK because none of us are perfect. Just continue to color inside and outside the lines of life as the Lord leads. James 1:4 says, “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” I encourage you to persevere with your coloring project. The day will come when it will be complete.

A Memorial Day Honor to Gold Star Mothers

As citizens of the United States of America, we will be observing Memorial Day this coming Monday. Memorial Day is a day set aside to honor military men and women who have lost their lives while serving our country. Unfortunately, many have forgotten the solemn meaning of this day. People have come to look upon this holiday as the first weekend of summer and celebrate with picnics rather than patriotism. However, there is a special group of women who still observe the true meaning of Memorial Day. I want to honor the American Gold Star Mothers today.

Let me take you back in history to World War I. When the United States entered the war in 1917, George Vaughn Seibold, 23, volunteered for military service. With her son no longer being home, Grace Darling Seibold decided to do some volunteering herself. She began visiting returning servicemen in hospitals.

Over time, Grace quit receiving letters from her son. However, she did not quit her volunteer work. She still visited hospitalized veterans in the Washington area. Unfortunately, George was never found. Her son had given his life for his country.

Grace knew that self-contained grief was destructive. So, she expanded her community service. While continuing to visit those hospitalized, she also reached out to other mothers who had lost sons in military service. Grace and these mothers organized a special group. Their purpose was not only to comfort each other, but to give loving care to hospitalized veterans in government hospitals far from home.

On June 4, 1928, twenty-five mothers met in Washington, DC to establish a national organization known as American Gold Star Mothers, Inc. It is a private, nonprofit organization of American mothers who have lost sons and daughters serving in the United States Armed Forces.

The organization’s name was chosen because of the custom of military men and women’s families hanging a banner called a service flag in the windows of their homes. The service flag has a star for each family member in the Armed Forces. Living military personnel are represented by a blue star. When a son or daughter loses their life in combat, a gold star is superimposed over the blue star.

The Gold Star gives honor and glory to the person who has made the supreme sacrifice of life for his or her country. It signifies the last full measure of devotion and pride for the family making this sacrifice. These families do not want to focus upon mourning symbols that point out their personal loss. Gold Star Mothers choose to wear white instead of black. White denotes the celebration of their children’s goodness, innocence and sacrifice.

It is stated on the Gold Star Mothers’ website, “The success of our organization continues because of the bond of mutual love, sympathy, and support of the many loyal, capable, and patriotic mothers who while sharing their grief and their pride, have channeled their time, efforts and gifts to lessening the pain of others. We stand tall and proud by honoring our children, assisting our veterans, supporting our nation, and healing with each other.”

I first became aware of this group through a special friend, Dorothy, who is a Gold Star Mother. She and her husband Ken lost their son Nicholas on December 13, 2012. Nick was a Staff sergeant in the Army and was part of the Explosive Ordinance Disposal. He gave his life while serving in Afghanistan. Dorothy was a Blue Star Mother. Her blue star became a gold star. Today, the banner of the Gold Star Mothers of America hangs in a window of their home.

Memorial Day has a treasured place in the hearts of Gold Star Mothers and their families. On this day, they especially remember the lives of military sons and daughters they have lost. This year, Ken and Dorothy are going to Washington DC to join other soldiers and their families with whom Nick served. They will be attending the “Rolling Thunder Ride for Freedom 2019event. This is a motorcycle rally that begins on Sunday at the Pentagon after a “blessing of the bikes” at the National Cathedral on Friday. The various events conclude on Monday. Nick’s first sergeant, Lt. Burns from Kansas, will be riding Nick’s motorcycle in this event. During the ride, they will stop at Arlington National Cemetery to visit the grave site of one of Nick’s comrades. These two soldiers were part of the same unit and died within a month of each other. Dorothy says, “It will be a time of remembrance for all of the families that are visiting there.”

Nick is no longer alive on earth, but he is alive in heaven. The life he lived still influences the lives of his parents. Dorothy says, “The Lord continues to grant us opportunities to reach out with God’s love to others who have suffered the loss of loved ones.”

Today, I am privileged to honor these special Gold Star Mothers as well as remember those who have given their lives while serving our country. Let’s celebrate Memorial Day as originally intended.

 

 

Grace Giver

When I awoke the other morning, I heard “Grace Giver” whispered in my spirit. I believe Grace Giver is an accurate description of God. He is the giver of grace. Grace is God’s gift to us.

Let’s take time to unwrap the gift of grace. Let’s meditate upon words of scripture and words of prominent Christian authors and speakers.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Ephesians 2:8

Grace is the power of the Holy Spirit available to you to do
with ease what you cannot do by striving in your own strength.
Joyce Meyer

But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.
Ephesians 4:7

But grace is at the center of the life God calls us to—
and reflects the heart of the One who calls.”

John Ortberg

My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.
II Corinthians 12:9

The true definition of “grace is the power of God,
not the unmerited favor of God.”
Bill Johnson

It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace.
Hebrews 13:9

Grace is the empowering presence of God that enables you
to become what He sees when He looks at you.”

Graham Cooke

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find
grace
to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:16

Grace sees potential – potential is more powerful than mistakes.
Grace sees what you can do, not what you have done.
Rev. Robert Reeves

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through
the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

II Peter 1:2

Grace: more than we deserve, more than we can Imagine.”
Max Lucado

(Calligraphy image done by our granddaughter Grace.)

For Mom

Our parents gave each of us a first and middle name when we were born. This is the name by which we are known. When a woman becomes the caregiver of a child, she inherits a new name. A few variations of this name are: Mother – Mom – Mommy – Mama – Ma. Throughout the day, she may more frequently respond to this new name than her given name.

Mother is more than a name. Mother is a role and a responsibility. Some may refer to it as an occupation or a title. However, I believe being a mother includes more than any of these descriptions. Being a mother is an honor.

I think about biblical mothers. There are numerous nameless moms.

In scripture we have many references to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Each of these men had a mother. We know Sarah was the mother of Isaac while Rebecca was Jacob’s mother. However, who was Abraham’s mother? We do not know her name. Abram had to have called some special lady Mom. I wonder how she felt when God called her son to move far away. I wonder if she ever knew that God changed the name she gave her son from Abram to Abraham.

I think about such prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Joel, Micah, and Zechariah. Each of these men had a mother but we know nothing about them. No prophet could have come into existence without a mother. God chose a particular woman to give birth to each of these men. Their prophetic words never would have been heard without these women.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were nurtured by their mothers long before they wrote the gospel accounts. Were these women proud of their sons’ accomplishments? Of Jesus’ twelve disciples, James and John were brothers. Peter and Andrew were also brothers. Here were two mothers who each watched two of their sons leave home and follow Jesus during His earthly ministry. Neither mom is given a name in scripture. However, these women had a part in creating the written word of God.

I wonder about the mothers of Noah in the Old Testament and Paul in the New Testament. I suspect neither woman had any idea what their son would do for the Lord. I could go on and on.

However, there is one more unnamed mother that I want to highlight. In John 6:6-14 we read about a young boy who gave Jesus his lunch of five loaves and two fish. Jesus multiplied this little lad’s lunch to feed 5000. While this account is found in all four gospels, we never learn the mother’s name who made this lunch for her son that morning. (This was pointed out to me by Melanie Shankle in Church of the Small Things.)

Maybe you are a stay at home mom who makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches five days a week. Maybe you are a working mom who has to hurriedly throw a piece of turkey or bologna between a couple of slices of bread before you leave for work. Do not underestimate your responsibility or your privilege. You do not know who you may be feeding. With whom might your son or daughter share their lunch? What are God’s plans and purposes for the young person for whom you provide daily nourishment? While being an attentive mom of your children, you fulfill Proverbs 22:6. Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Being a mother can sometimes feel like a thankless responsibility. However, your place in the family is part of God’s design for His bigger family. You may be known as (insert your son or daughter’s name) mother. Consider it a blessing.

Your children may only know you as mom. That is OK. God knows you as a mother and He also knows your name. Isaiah 49:16 NLT says, “See, I have written your name on the palms of My hands.

In just a few days, we will be celebrating Mother’s Day and honoring the extraordinary women God has called to be mothers. It does not matter if you have achieved world fame or have your name written in history books, you are special in God’s eyes. God has entrusted His little ones (and not so little ones) into your care.

Proverbs 31:25-20 is a good description of how the Lord views mothers. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her; ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’

Happy Mother’s Day to all women who fulfill the role and responsibility of a mom!  You are honored!