Seedlings

Our daughter loves gardening. While looking through seed catalogs, she decides what she wants to grow in her garden. Then she purchases the seeds. Zucchini – tomatoes – peppers – cucumbers.

Since warm weather is slow to arrive in New York state, she gets an early start by planting seeds indoors. Her seeds have become seedlings by the time she transplants them outdoors. I think the seedlings appreciate her TLC.

We can follow her example with spiritual seeds we plant in our hearts. Instead of looking through seed catalogs, we can look through our Bibles and find what seeds we most want to grow during the upcoming months. We, too, can give our spiritual seeds a head start by digging deeply into what scripture tells us about specific seeds.

Here are a few options of the spiritual seeds we can plant.

Faith
Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.Hebrews 11:1 NLT

Hope
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 8:24-25
Hope is confident expectation.

Love
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.I Corinthians 13:4-7

Forgiveness
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.Colossians 3:13 NLT

Joy
This is the day the LORD has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.Psalm 118:24

Although Jill gives her plant babies proper attention and extra nutrients, her seedlings are still delicate. However, they are one step ahead of seeds planted directly into the ground. The seedlings must be handled with care.

We will be wise to give our spiritual seedlings a little extra TLC before we transplant them into the world around us. The sprouts of our spiritual seedlings are fragile. They need our attention. They cry out for nourishment and water. Revelation 22:17 says, “Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.II Corinthians 9:10 says, “Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

Once planted in the garden, our daughter’s vegetable seedlings grow rapidly with abundant sunshine and rain. However, weeds also grow. Jill now has a new project – pulling weeds. This is a continual part of gardening throughout the season.

Our spiritual seedlings also like Sonshine and heavenly rain. Ezekiel 36:25 promises. “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols.” We will encounter weeds when are in the world. Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” In these verses we not only discover weeds that need to be uprooted but we also learn how to get rid of them. Acts 3:19 tells us, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Yes! Let’s wipe out all the weeds that want to crop up in our hearts.

From one little zucchini seedling, Jill gets enough zucchini to make multiple loaves of zucchini bread, to serve many dinners that include some kind of zucchini dish, to eat it raw with humus, and still share some of her vegetable produce with us. One zucchini seed or seedling can grow into a plant that yields many zucchini.

Our harvest from a spiritual seedling has the same potential. For instance, let us take a little seedling of love that is allowed to grow to maturity. Ephesians 3:17-19 says, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. The amazing thing is that a spiritual seed or seedling grows best when shared with others. We want the fruit of our labor to be more than seedlings. We want fruitfulness!

Just as vegetable seedlings grow in fertile, watered and cared for ground, spiritual seedlings will sprout, grow and flourish in our hearts. I want to restate the last part of Ephesians 3:17 Living Letters,May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.Let us nurture and care for these tender sprouts. However, may we not be content with just seedlings. May our plantings produce godly growth we can share with those around us.

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The Glue of Love

Tomorrow will be Valentine’s Day. As a child, I remember making valentines. I cut out hearts of red construction paper – probably some pink and white ones too. Mom gave me a few lace doilies I added to make my valentines fancy. Then I used lots of glue! Glue held my homemade creations together.

I think God uses a different kind of glue to hold everything together. His glue is called love. Today, we will explore scripture to learn about God’s glue.

First, let’s consider God being the glue.

I John 4:16 says, “God is love.” If we describe glue as love, then God is a kind of glue because He is love. In Hebrews 13:5, God says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” We are attached to God by His love. I applied glue to the pieces of my valentines to hold several hearts together. God promises to stick to us like glue. He is a glue stick!

We learn in Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Healing broken hearts sounds like a function of God’s glue. I am sure some of the paper hearts I cut out were broken because I was not careful enough with the scissors. I glued them back together so I could make more valentines.

Next, let’s think about love as glue.

I John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.When I made valentines as a little girl, I did not know how to spell many words. It was easier for me to just glue hearts together as a symbol of love. I chose to express my affection by making valentines with my hands rather than by writing poetic words.

According to Paul, God’s glue is patient and never fails. I Corinthians 13:4 tells us, Love is patient.” When making valentines, I had to be patient and allow the glue dry. Otherwise, the glue would not have done its job. A few verses later, I Corinthians13:8 says, “Love never fails.” When my glue dried, it did not fail to hold the embellishments I attached to my valentines.

We read in I Peter 4:8, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.I used a lot of glue on my homemade valentines. Glue covered a multitude of paper hearts. Only then was I sure they would stick together. The glue probably also covered a multitude of my creations’ imperfections just as God’s glue covers our many sins.

Now, let’s consider how we can apply God’s glue.

When asked what was the greatest commandment, Jesus answered in Mark 12:29-31, The most important one is this, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.’” In a recent sermon, our pastor pointed out that our loving God requires loving our neighbor. In other words, loving God and loving people stick together. Love is a powerful glue.

God’s love-glue is made of two components – loving God and loving others. Things don’t stick right in a person’s life if both expressions of love are not evident. When I made childlike valentines, I put glue between two different hearts to make one card. When we put loving God and loving people together, we apply the most powerful glue to our lives.   

Proverbs 17:17 tells us, “A friend loves at all times.” We are to let those around us know how much we care about them whether it be Valentine’s Day or any other day of the year. We should stay attached to our friends through all circumstances. We should stick together like glue.

Finally, let’s glue everything together.

Colossians 3:14 instructs us, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Whether we are thinking about godly virtues or valentines, love is the theme. Glue holds things together just as love holds things together.

I Corinthians 16:14 is a good reminder for all of us. Do everything in love.” Whether it be making valentines or going about daily activities, love should be part of the process.

God’s Knitting Project

It was morning. Quietness filled the house. I was praying for an individual and a difficult situation she was encountering. My friend had strengths and weaknesses. There were pros and cons regarding her situation. I cried out, “Lord, knit their hearts together.”1

The Lord immediately began showing me mental pictures in my spirit.  I sensed the Lord holding two balls of yarn – one in each hand.2 Each ball was unique. However, God was knitting them together. The knitting needles were the Holy Spirit. Sharp needles were piercing in truth and cutting out lies – like the two-edged sword of the Spirit.3 The colorful yarns were being knit together. A new creation was being made.4 

Sometimes there were knots in the yarn. A weakened thread in one of the yarns could have caused a knot. Or, tension between the two yarns could have created a knotty spot. The knots had to be removed before knitting could continue.  If a person tried to get a knot out with one’s fingers, it was harder to remove than if the Holy Spirit’s needles were used. The pointed end of the knitting needle was like the point of the sword of the Spirit.5 When the sharp needle was poked into the tangled yarn, the knot was removed. It certainly was easier for yarn to become entangled than to get it untangled!6 Human hands could have caused the tangles, but God was the Untangler. The knots had to be untied – set free of entanglements and bondage.7

Knitting and unknotting continued. A new creation was emerging. It was beautiful.8

My day progressed and I tucked away the images of my spiritual knitting project. Later, I heard the word “unraveled” whispered in my spiritual ear. I asked the Lord how this applied to His knitting project. To me, both knots and unraveling appeared to be hindrances to what was being made. What was the difference? God reminded me that the knots were in the individual yarns while unraveling occurred where the yarns were knitted together.

God showed me that yarn unraveled when there was a snag – when it caught on something.9 A snag could be repaired but it involved tedious work. It took time to weave the threads back together.  No new progress was made while the snag was being mended.10 However, once the snag was fixed, the Knitter continued His project.11

That evening, I was reading scripture. I do not think it was just a coincidence that I read Colossians 2:2 NLT,I want them to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself.The New International Version uses “united” rather than “knit together”. Whatever the terminology, love was a secret strand that was integral to the resolution between my friend and her situation. The Holy Spirit was knitting together, uniting, two balls of yarn that were held in God’s hands. Love was a part of the new creation.

God heard and was answering my morning prayer! Through mental images, a whispered word, and His written Word, God showed me He was at work. I have not yet seen the fulfillment of my prayer in the natural realm, but I have been encouraged. We walk by faith, not by sight, so I keep believing and lifting up this individual and her situation in prayer.12

Endnote Scriptural References:
(all scriptures are New International Version unless otherwise noted.)

1. In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. – Psalm 5:3

2. 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. – Isaiah 41:10

3. For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12

4. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! – II Corinthians 5:17

5. the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God – Ephesians 6:17

6. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us fee, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. – Galatians 5:1 NKJV

7. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:36

8. He has made everything beautiful in its time. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

9. Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. – Galatians 6:1

10. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. – I John 1:9

11. He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. – Philippians 1:6

12. Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1 NLT

 

 

Underground

It is spring. Tulips and daffodils are springing up. It seems like these flowers are just suddenly appearing. However, that is not the case. If there are to be spring flowers, bulbs must be planted in the fall. They should be placed 10-12 inches deep beneath the soil’s surface. Then, a period of cold weather is necessary to break the dormancy of the bulbs. After a long cycle of cool temperatures, the biochemical process is sparked that causes the blossoms. All this is underground work.

God works underground with creation. He also works deep in our hearts. The Lord describes His ground work in Ezekiel 36:26-27 saying, “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, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”  The power of the Holy Spirit changes our hearts. This is ground work because our heart is the ground, or soil, of our lives. It is also ground work in the sense that it is the foundational work that God does within us.

Isaiah 35:1-2 says,The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.”
Various commentaries point out that the desert can refer to a spiritual wilderness. In these verses, there is a messianic message that is later fulfilled by Christ’s ministry. Combining the underground work of God in Ezekiel and the blossom in Isaiah, we can make a personal application. When the Lord works underground to give us a new heart, Jesus is the blossom that appears.

Luke 8:17-19 says, “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.God works in our hearts creating deep roots – deeper than the 10-12 inches for tulip bulbs. The height of the faith flower that suddenly appears reveals the depth of the underground work of our Creator’s loving hands.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV says, “For everything there is a season.” Growth takes place in floral bulbs during winter as well as spring. Without winter work, no spring flowers. In our lives, there may be bleak times when nothing appears to be happening. We may think God is ignoring our struggles. We may feel like He has abandoned us. However, God is doing a deep spiritual work in our hearts. He digs out the dirt of sin and plants new life. He is working underground. II Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

God’s hands are in touch with flowers and personal lives. He handles all things with care. God works slowly and thoroughly. Philippians 1:6 assures us, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Whether it be blossoms from bulbs or flowers of faith, God works underground to produce beauty above ground. According to Ecclesiastes 3:11 KNJV, He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

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The Two Sides of a Coin

I am holding a coin of American money in my hand. There are different images on each side. On onside there are imprints stating the coin’s value, our country’s name, and the phrase “In God We Trust.” On the other side, there is either an image of a previous president or a historical building. There are always two sides to a coin.

Now imagine a spiritual coin. Like a monetary coin, the spiritual coin has two sides. One side is mercy and the other side is grace. We do not have images for mercy and grace but we do have definitions. The simplest definitions are: Mercy is not getting what one deserves from God. Grace is getting what one does not deserve from God.

A coin of money is used to pay the price for something purchased. The same is true for a spiritual coin.

Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Death was the wage, or cost, of our sin. Jesus paid the extravagant price of His life by dying upon the cross. He purchased salvation and eternal life for us.

Romans 3:23-24, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” Why was Jesus willing to pay such a high price? The answer is Ephesians 2:4, “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy.” Mercy and grace are gifts purchased by the richness of God’s love. Nothing is free, monetarily or spiritually.

An American money coin is round. The cross is the shape of a spiritual coin.

Jesus paid for our sins on the cross. Consequently, we do not receive what we deserve. This is mercy. Titus 3:5-6, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Now He offers us a gift we do not deserve – grace. Ephesians 2:8 and 10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

In Exodus 25, the Lord gave Moses instructions on how to build the ark of the covenant. The lid was called the mercy seat. Annually, a priest would go into the Holy of Holies and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat for atonement. This was where God resided. The writer of Hebrews refers to this when he says in Hebrews 4:16, “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.”

God has given us the coin of mercy and grace. Now, let us extend mercy and grace to others. The coin is in our hands.

Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Luke 6:36 tells us to, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Grace is promised to us in Ephesians 4:7, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” John 1:16 ESV, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” God has more than enough grace to meet our every need. I Peter 4:10, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

In conclusion, let’s refer back to our image of the monetary coin. As previously stated, “In God We Trust” is imprinted on our American coins. The same can be said of our spiritual coin. It is only as we trust God that the valuable coin of mercy and grace is available.

 

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Sacred Fear or Scared Fear

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When rereading The Fear of God by John Bevere, I was reminded of the confusion that can arise concerning the word “fear.”

Several years ago, we were in Australia for my husband’s work. We stayed at an apartment that had maid service. When one of the girls saw John Bevere’s book on my table, she was very adamant that we were not to fear God. Although we both spoke English, I could not adequately explain to her the difference between sacred fear and scared fear. I wonder how many others struggle with this concept.

According to spelling, “sacred fear” and “scared fear” look similar. However, the fears described are different. Both are mentioned in scripture.

Sacred fear is a fear reserved for God who deserves our praise and worship. A person experiences awe and wonder when overcome with reverential fear.

Several Proverbs and a couple of quotes by John Bevere, help clarify the meaning of sacred fear. (or reverential fear)

Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge. – Proverbs 1:7aNLT
Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. – Proverbs 9:10a NLT
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life. – Proverbs 14:27
The fear of the Lord is the beginning, or the starting place, of an intimate relationship with God.” – John Bevere
To fear God is to believe God. To believe God is to obey Him.” – John Bevere

Scared fear is a fear of man that causes anxiety and agitation. A person may become worried or panicky when feeling afraid.

The following scriptures reveal that scared fear can be overcome with sacred fear.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe. – Proverbs 29:25
The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?Psalm 118:6 NLT
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self- discipline. –
II Timothy 1:7 NLT
The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?Psalm 27:1

Sacred fear of the Lord overpowers any scared fear of potential harm by another person. When we place a higher value upon God’s Word than man’s opinion, we turn our hearts to Him with reverential awe.

Hebrews 13:5 NLT says, “So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?’” To boldly and confidently declare this statement does not mean that bad things will never happen to us. But, it does give us courage during difficult times.

Scared fear is a force that opposes the spiritual force of sacred fear. While scared fear urges us to believe what is seen and doubt the unseen, sacred fear is the result of faith – believing what is not seen. (see Hebrews 11:1)

God knows we will encounter fear. He also promises to help us overcome our fears. We can cling to  Deuteronomy 31:8, “The LORD Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

In conclusion, we can say that sacred fear reveres the Lord while scared fear dishonors Him.

John Bevere asks, “Are my actions influenced more by God or people?”
My answer is found in Psalm 56:11, “In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?

What is your response?
If you are unsure of your answer, I encourage you to think about Isaiah 41:13, “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”

Sacred fear is full of awe while scared fear is awful.

 

A Valentine for 365 Days

Universally, the heart is a symbol of love. However, on February 14, the heart is commercialized in more ways than one can imagine. Greeting cards are created in the shape of hearts decorated with lace and flowers. Heart-shaped boxes enfold decadent chocolates. Bouquets of red roses with a plastic heart stuck in the middle are advertised. Even fluffy stuffed animals portraying love are for sale. Whatever the expression of love, there is always a heart included with the sentiment “Be My Valentine.”

Why magnify love only one day of the year? True love lasts longer than one day. Love is more than a few romantic words composed by Hallmark. Love is more valuable than commercial stuff. God’s love is lavished upon us 365 days of the year. (see I John 3:1) God is love according to I John 4:8.

Let’s make a few comparisons between what God says about love and what the marketing industry sells.

The Greek language has several unique words for love. Agape is God’s love – selfless love. Eros is passionate or romantic love. Valentine’s Day focuses on Eros.

Here are images of angels. Cupid is the valentine angel. In classical mythology, Cupid is the god of erotic love. A cupid is described as a winged being symbolic of love.

In comparison, we see an image of Michael, God’s archangel. Micheal is a warring angel who fights for us. (see Revelation 12:7-9) In Revelation 5:11, John heard the voice of “thousands upon thousands and tens thousand times ten thousand” angels. Too many angels to count! Psalm 91:11 a  loving verse telling each of us about our personal guardian angel. Weapons are evident in these images. In the valentine image, Cupid is shooting an arrow with his bow. On many valentines, there is an arrow of love aimed for the beloved’s heart. Is this truly romantic?

The other image is symbolic of the sword of the Spirit – part of God’s armor. (see Ephesians 6:18) The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Offensively, God’s Word can penetrate the unbeliever’s heart allowing him/her to experience the love of God. Much more powerful than an arrow!Is love costly? Looking on the back of a valentine card, one discovers how expensive a particular piece of folded paper can be. Is Eros love worth this amount of money?

Agape love cost Jesus His life. That’s costly! Romans 5:8 NLT says, “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” And I Corinthians 6:20 says, “God bought you with a high price.”Pictured above is an old-fashioned valentine. On a flimsy piece of paper, a cute little angel says, “It would be heavenly to have you for my Valentine.” Although this might be a sweet sentiment, there is no sincere commitment.

In contrast, God reveals His love for us throughout the Bible. In Revelation 21 and 22, the angel of the Lord shows John the new heaven and the new earth that will last throughout eternity. The Lord’s love endures forever.  (see  I Chronicles 16:34)

So, forget the commercial hype of Valentine’s Day. Concentrate on God’s  love. Listed below are  scriptural love notes from God. (Emphasis is by the writer.)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.
I John 4:7

The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
I John 4:8

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But
the greatest of these is love.
I Corinthians 13:13

and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us
and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Ephesians 5:2

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