Keep Your Tools Sharpened

Keep Your Tools Sharpened

I recently bought a new set of steak knives and a vegetable peeler. I really can’t remember how old the ones we were using were. Not a big deal, right? But oh what a difference they made! Cutting through steak was easy and not like sawing through rubber and oh how quickly the carrots were peeled! Over time and with use the wear and tear affects their sharpness and effectiveness. It’s a gradual decline in the cutting edge that isn’t noticeable until simple tasks become difficult. All chefs, carpenters and gardeners know how important it is to keep their tools clean and sharpened to avoid injury and get the best results.

Many of us have not been careful to guard our minds from the constant barrage of adds telling us what we need and what to believe. The immoral and often untrue drone of the media feeds into our subconsciouses. We believe the lies and fall into the trap of mediocrity as our souls become dull to the decline in the very fabric of our society. There aren’t many ways to God – Jesus said ,”I AM the way”. There can’t be a “my truth” and “your truth”, there is only THE TRUTH. We shouldn’t be tied up and confused by all the jargon being spit out by the world. God’s word tells us that it doesn’t need to be this way. It’s NOT supposed to be this way for His children. Jesus was quick to answer Satan with Scripture. The value of memorization is incalculable as the Spirit will bring verses to mind in our need.

 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Eph 6:13-18 (ESV)

 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NLT)

We keep our focus sharp by reading His word, prayer and being in fellowship with other believers. How can we encourage each other if we don’t know what is going on each other’s lives? God has always called His people to corporate prayer and worship. We sharpen each other by discussing God’s word and how to apply it to our daily situations. The blessing of having services online during our national shutdown has caused some to stop the habit of coming together at all.

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 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Heb 10:24-25 (ESV)

 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Prov 27:17 (ESV)

I believe we are in the beginning of the End Times. Keep looking up and your tools sharp!

Seeds of Potential

Seeds of Potential

There is a bumper crop of apples in New England this year.  The too hot and too wet weather for people was great for the fruit trees.  Each seed has potential for life and growth and an abundant harvest. Each apple has the potential to be used in a lot of ways….eating, baking pies, muffins, pastries, making cider, applesauce, decorating and the list goes on.  An apple tree takes eight years of growing before it will bear any fruit and then varying amounts each year. How many apples will there be in its lifetime?

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Did you know that apples are not native to the US? They were introduced to North America in the 17th century by European colonists and their descendants.   Most stories about the American folk hero John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, are more fiction than fact.  Born in  Massachusetts, he planted apple orchards as far as the Midwest. He  never married, lived a very simple life and shared the message of God’s love to everyone including native Indian tribes.

The word potential means, “ having latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness”.   Synonyms for potential are possibilities, prospects, promise, capability and capacity.

The Bible tells us that most of the twelve disciples were hard working but uneducated men.  They were trying hard to understand and follow Jesus’ teaching but questioned how they could possibly do what He asked.   5  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.         Luke 17:5-6 (ESV)

We serve a God with Whom nothing is impossible.   When the Hebrews were taken out of Egypt – God parted the Red Sea.  When David faced off against the giant Goliath – God took him down with a stone and a slingshot.  When Daniels friends refused to bow to the kings statue  – God rescued them from the fiery furnace.   Jesus fed 5000 people with only a little boys lunch.  

 For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37 (NLT)

Since we don’t have any mustard trees in New England, can I use the term “apple seeds of faith”?  Is your faith as small as an apple seed?  Every person has potential and so does each day. We need to find our gifts and abilities to develop and use them by reading the Bible – God’s manual and by talking to the Master Gardener.   Every day we are given new opportunities and choices to share our faith with a lost and hurting world.   Just think of all the possibilities!           

Whatever circumstance you may face today ask God to show you the potential within and take a small step forward even with “faith like an apple seed”.

 
 

Remember Who You Are

Remember Who You Are

It has been 27 years since Disney’s The Lion King premiered in its animated form but is still a globally loved film and musical. Strong messages of love, friendship, hope and responsibility are wrought throughout the story. Although critics complained about the violence, terror and stereotypes within the film, isn’t that real life? In the past year and a half we have been overcome by things we do not understand. How can a tiny virus shut down the world? Our planet is feeling the impact of climate change from massive forest fires, floods, tornadoes and earthquakes causing much catastrophic damage. Violence and terror both locally and globally have increased. But for the Christian, one thing has remained unchanged. God is Sovereign and in control.

I believe there are some life lessons we can apply from The Lion King.

Simba said, “As you go through life there is so much that I don’t understand. And the only thing we know is things don’t always go the way we planned.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.         Prov 3:5-6 (ESV)

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.   Jer 29:11

Rafiki said, “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.”  “Look beyond what you can see.”

  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.    Romans 8:28

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.     1 Cor 16:13-14

Mufassa said, “While others search for what they can take, a true king searches for what he can give.” “You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba, you are more than what you have become,”

Often I think we, “THE CHURCH”, have forgotten WHO we are. We are sons and daughters of the King of kings but some don’t behave like it. We have taken our spiritual armor off and haven’t protected our hearts and minds. The division over mask wearing has wreaked havoc in some churches. I am not saying we should be foolish and carry on with our lives as if nothing has changed. I am requesting that we please follow proper guidelines and stop fighting the government because Satan is our real enemy. God wants us to grow and be more than we are.

We are the adopted children of God and therefore sons and daughters of the King of Kings. We are called to be ambassadors for Christ and carry the only message of reconciliation with God and promise of heaven. We need to walk wisely and wear our armor.

“Clothe yourselves with God’s truth, put on the breastplate of God’s righteousness (not our own) and your feet should carry the gospel of peace. Hold the shield of faith before you to be protected from the arrows (lies, deceit, hate etc) of the evil one. Wear the helmet of salvation and carry the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. Pray at all times and be alert.”  From Gal. 6

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”  Deut 31:6

We have a message of hope and peace to share. And thanks to technology we can find newer ways to reach out and help others. Remember this world is not our final home. Remember who you are.

Faulty Navigation

Faulty Navigation

On a recent much needed long weekend trip my husband and I were so proud of ourselves for packing so efficiently and getting on the road earlier than usual.  The weather was cloudy but dry and the traffic wasn’t too bad. We had a general idea of where we were going and set the GPS for our final destination. We headed north through Boston only stopping briefly and continued on.  I casually read exit signs that should have caused a “bell to go off” but it wasn’t until we were way off course that we stopped to check the GPS setting.  Somehow it was programmed wrong and we were near Bar Harbor 80 miles farther north than Boothbay Harbor the town where we were supposed to stay! Luckily for us we pulled over at an ice cream shop but then we had no alternative but to turn around.

A harbor is a body of water sheltered by natural or artificial barriers. Harbors can provide safe anchorage and permit the transfer of cargo and passengers between ships and the shore. The word “harbor” means to shelter or keep safe. We were safe but far off course.

Navigation is the process or activity of accurately ascertaining one’s position and planning and following a route. And that was our problem. Usually my husband carefully checks paper maps before any trip and checks for any detours or construction along the route. I had the confirmation from the hotel in my purse which gave directions including the exits to take. But I failed to double check it and at the rest area we didn’t look at the wall map. Instead, we were trusting in our GPS which told us to keep going straight but was programmed wrong. We had been so weary of the everyday grind and anxious to be on vacation we failed to fully prepare.

 “Monotony can dull your thinking until your mind slips into neutral. A mind that is unfocused is vulnerable to “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” all of which exert a downward pull on your thoughts you’re your thinking processes deteriorate, you become increasingly confused and directionless. The best remedy is to refocus your mind and heart on Me, your constant Companion”.    From Jesus Calling,  2004

Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. 6 Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.      Proverbs 3:5-6 (The Message)

When we get tired and let our guard down we plod along thinking we are doing okay. We will miss the cues that tell us something isn’t right if we fail to consult God’s map for living.  The Bible warns us of bumpy roads, dangerous intersections and detours as well as promising scenic routes and restful stops. We cannot fully navigate through the challenges of life without His help because our minds are easily swayed by what we read and hear in the media and from other people. Our attitudes and our choices can be compromised. That is why we need to be very careful what voices we are listening to.

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.        Josh 1:7 (ESV)

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.       Psalms 119:105 (ESV)

So, we turned the car around (another word for repent), read the directions and reprogrammed the GPS. We did have a good weekend away but it would have started off much better if we had not been in a rush. Next time we will be sure to check all maps and not be detoured by faulty navigation.

Handwritten Letters

Handwritten Letters

Sadly I believe the art of writing a good letter is almost lost. I used to send handwritten letters to many people and even had a pen pal for many years. But now it seems a Hallmark card is good enough and a printed letter only goes to close friends and family at Christmas time. Facebook and other media gives a way to send a quick thought but there is no substance. My husband and I have been going through many boxes of memorabilia containing letters from our college years. Not only did they express our feelings for each other but information about classes, dorm mates and happenings on campus and back home. I found some letters my parents sent each other while he was in the Air Force and a letter my Grandma sent me before she died the summer I was a camp counselor. These letters hold a snapshot of life in the past but also reinforce the foundation my life was built on.

The second part of the Christian Bible, called the New Testament, consists of the Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Book of Revelation, which together describe the life and teachings of Jesus, the efforts on the part of Jesus’s followers to establish the Christian Church, and a prophetic vision of the Second Coming. These epistles were handwritten letters to various young Churches scattered around the then known world and have been meticulously preserved for us.

 Luke, the beloved doctor, sends his greetings, and so does Demas.15 Please give my greetings to our brothers and sisters at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church that meets in her house.16 After you have read this letter, pass it on to the church at Laodicea so they can read it, too. And you should read the letter I wrote to them.17 And say to Archippus, “Be sure to carry out the ministry the Lord gave you.”18 Here is my greeting in my own handwriting—Paul. Remember my chains. May God’s grace be with you. Col 4:14-18

These letters contain names and places of real people that were being taught how to live as Christians in a pagan world. The letters teach deep theology and practical solutions to problems we still face today. Within the pages are words of admonishment similar to, “please get along and take care of each other” as well as words of encouragement for these early saints, “Stand firm in His word.”

In our fast paced instant messenger world we can just read a quick verse on our phone or listen to a podcast at the click of a button. I don’t think we appreciate the time It would have taken quite for these letters to reach their intended readers. That is what we would call real snail mail. I do know that we take for granted our free access to these letters and the rest of scripture. I am old school and personally prefer a printed paper copy to read and re-read the words on a page and let it speak to me like a personal letter.

Did you know we are to live out our personal lives so others can “read” about Jesus even if the don’t own a bible?

Your lives are a letter written in our hearts; everyone can read it and recognize our good work among you.3 Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This “letter” is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God. It is carved not on tablets of stone, but on human hearts. 2 Cor 3:2-3 (NLT)

I have a challenge for you dear readers and it is three fold.

  1. Send a handwritten letter of appreciation to someone in your life. It will mean far more than you could imagine.
  2. Pick up a paper copy of God’s word, sit and read a whole passage or chapter. Let His word sink into your heart. Think about the people in that passage, the person who wrote it, does their situation apply to your life?
  3. Ask yourself if anyone can read about Jesus by watching how you daily live.

Unmasked

Unmasked

Finally we are breathing a sigh of relief and taking off our masks. A year and a half of living in cautious isolation, distance and covering up to provide a measure of protection for ourselves and loved ones has been very difficult. Humans were created to be interactive using all of our senses. It really is nice to see my friends’ faces in person and not on a screen or half hidden.

A mask is simply a covering for all or part of the face and they have been used for tens of thousands of years for many different purposes. There are many types : Camouflage (to conceal) – Ceremonial (funeral, worship, war) – Cosmetic -Disguise (pretend, theatre)-Natural animal color patterns and Protective (from dust, pollutants and infection). This list represents masks that are changeable, tangible and visible.

But don’t we all wear masks on our hearts from time to time? We try to hide our fears, feelings, faults and failures. But we really need friends and places where we can be ourselves, free to share and feel safe. Unfortunately The Church has not always been that safe place for wounded people to come as they are. The world sees a bunch of hypocrites. False expectations of performance or presentation get in the way of true transformation and growth. We need to remember that The Church is not about a building but it is a bunch of broken and imperfect people who are gathered to worship a big and perfect God. When Adam and Eve sinned they covered themselves, ran and hid. God went looking for them calling, “Where are you?’

The group Casting Crowns wrote a song called “Stained Glass Masquerade” that spells out the feelings of not belonging while everyone else pretends they have it all together.

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles that hide our pain
But the invitations open
To every heart that’s been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain
On our stained glass masquerade

God knows we wear masks of pride, offense, perfection and strength to hide our fear of exposure, inadequacy and failures. These masks prevent us from finding grace and healing. They hide the real us but also keep other people from seeing Jesus. Masks obscure our vision from seeing the needs of people near us and the purpose He has for our lives.

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.2 You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.3 You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. Psalms 139:1-3 (NLT)

The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam 16:7 (NLT)

23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.25 So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body Eph 4:23-25 (NLT)

Jesus is our living example. He never wore any kind of mask. He had no use for pretenders and called them out. He was exposed, vulnerable and judged. It might be scary to take off a mask you have been wearing for awhile. Find a friend to pray with you for courage and the strength to be real. Encourage one another to let the light of Jesus shine through your imperfection ……. and live mask free.

Free to Be Me by Franseca Battistelli

‘Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I’m so clumsy
But on your shoulders I can see
I’m free to be me
And you’re free to be you