Promises You Can Count On

Promises You Can Count On

Those of us who live in the north of the country are now enjoying the beauty of Springtime. The birds have migrated back to their nesting places and bulbs planted in the fall are pushing their way through the earth. The trees and bushes are blooming in a glorious array of color everywhere we look. Farmers have begun the process of tilling the soil and planting new seeds with hopes of a good harvest. This is all looked forward to with great anticipation in the full circle of the seasons – especially the warmer weather! The promise of Spring brings hope and it has been proven scientifically that more sunshine and longer hours of daylight elevates our moods.

Our politicians make many promises we cannot count on. Weddings and graduations bring many promises of a bright future but sometimes those promises are broken and plans do not turn out as hoped for. The farmer plants with great expectation but he cannot control the rain and sun that is needed for heathy growth. Are there any promises we can count on?

The definition of a promise is, “a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that a particular thing will happen” or a “binding pledge from one person to another”. The person to whom the promise is made has every right to expect the promise to be fulfilled. A mans’ (or womans’) word used to mean something. If you gave your word and shook on it it was as good as done. When we were kids on the playground we would “pinky promise” about something and it meant you could be trusted and would never betray your friend. There are almost 7500 promises from God to mankind in the Bible. Throughout the Scriptures faith is the trustful human response to God’s self-revelation through His words and His actions. He has proven over and over that He is faithful to His Word even when we are not.

In an article I found on Bible.org it listed 12 types of promises we can find. God promises 1) to answer our prayers, 2) provide healing 3) give us strength and power 4 )hope for the future 5) to be with us 6) forgiveness of sin 7) protection 8) peace of mind 9) wisdom and guidance 10) to supply our needs 11) eternal salvation 12) an end to suffering.

A verse I memorized as a child told me where to look for the answers in life and here are some other favorites. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Psalm  119:105

For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. Psalm 100: 5

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   1John 1:9

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.  John 14:26,27

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.    Romans  8:38,39

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?   Matthew 6:26&29

Yes, we can count on our great and mighty God’s promises. The second verse of an old hymn, “Standing on the Promises of God” says it well.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail.
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God. [Refrain]

Does Jesus Care?

Does Jesus Care?

When you are facing a crisis of any kind, do you wonder if God cares? When you feel lost or alone and think , “can’t He see I’m struggling here? ” When you watch tragedies unfold on the television do you wonder if He hears our prayers? I can tell you dear reader that yes, He cares. From cover to cover the Bible reminds us of Gods’ love and faithfulness to individuals as well as groups of people.

Reading through the Psalms of David gives us insight into this “man after God’s own heart.” David was called as a young man to serve God and was anointed to one day become king of Israel. But most of his life was filled with difficulty – running from a crazy man(Saul), family disfunction and wars to name a few. That is why his words so often reflect the feelings and questions of our own hearts.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Ps 34:18. ESV

A person’s steps are established by the LORD, and he takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the LORD supports him with his hand. Psalms 37:23-24 CSB

Why, my soul, are you so dejected? Why are you in such turmoil? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him, my Savior and my God. I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember you …. Psalms 42;5&6 CSB

When I am afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3 CSB

One time when the Lord Jesus travelled across the Sea of Galilee with His disciples, a great storm arose. In terror, the men roused their sleeping Master. “He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ (Mk. 4:38). What a question! The irony of it is striking. Why had He come to this earth? To save those who are perishing and destined for eternal ruin (Lk. 19:10; Jn. 3:16). On another occasion, the Lord was visiting in the home of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at His feet, absorbing His teaching. But “Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me’” (Lk. 10:40). If the first example represents fear’s mastery over faith (Mk. 4:40), the second strikes at the root of values and priorities (Lk. 10:41-42). by Robert Cottrill in Wordwise Hymns

Frank Ellsworth Graeff (1860-1918) was a Methodist minister who was well known for his sunny disposition and story telling abilities especially with children. However he struggled deeply with a number of losses, pain and testing experiences in his life. He often turned to Scripture for strength and solace and 1 Peter 5:7 “casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you”, became especially meaningful to him and spoke to his need. It was during a time of great despondency and doubt that Rev. Graeff penned the words to the hymn, “Does Jesus Care?”.

It is only human to to experience times in our lives when we have doubts and question the nearness of God. Our struggles can leave us feeling defeated and depleted of joy when we lose sight of who God is and His loving care for us. It is in these moments we need to read in the Bible about the character of our God and cling to His promises.

God is Eternal, Faithful, Holy, Just, Loving, All Powerful, All Seeing, All Knowing, Always Present, Unchanging, Prince of Peace…

God is our Advocate, Counselor, Healer, Provider, Protector, Redeemer, Savior, Shepherd and Friend…

You can bring all your concerns, petitions, shattered dreams and wounded hearts and give them all to Jesus because YES He cares!

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.

SOUL RESTORATION

SOUL RESTORATION

My husband and I like to watch Antiques Roadshow on PBS.  It is interesting to watch as people bring in their various collections, yard sale finds and family heirlooms to be appraised.  Sometimes you can just tell that the Appraiser is very excited by a particular piece.  He will begin to explain the origin and history of the find but then declare that the article is quite valuable but if it is properly restored it will be worth far more than ever dreamed.

We have an old bureau that had belonged to my husbands’ Great Aunt.  It was usable but in sad shape. The top was worn and veneer broken. We didn’t think restoring it to the original finish would be worth the work since it was not an expensive wood. Instead, my husband carefully sanded down all the surfaces several times and patched the broken places. It took several coats of paint as the wood was very dry and I ordered new special knobs and handles to replace the old plain ones. It was a process that took time. It is still an old vintage piece but looks better than before inside and out.

The biblical meaning of the word “restoration” is to receive back more than has been lost to the point where the final state is greater than the original condition.  The point is that someone or something is improved beyond measure.

Peter had really blown it by denying he even knew Jesus while standing in the courtyard while Jesus was inside “on trial’. But today you can visit Tabgha, a quiet cove on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. There a church was built called “the Church of Peter’s Primacy” to commemorate Peter’s restoration. He was not restored to go back to fishing but to move forward as “the Rock”, the chosen leader for the disciples and early Church. 

Humans were created in God’s own image and are of great worth in His eyes. No person can stray so far away that they cannot be restored by His grace. Jesus explained that to us clearly in the parable of the prodigal son. God wants to use us for His service and glory despite our faults and failures.  

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.          2 Cor 5:17 (ESV)

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.      Eph 4:22-24

Maybe you can’t identify with the “prodigal son” but you are more like his brother.  Life didn’t seem “fair” and he was angry. Has your Bible gotten dusty or is your thought life rough around the edges? Are you stuck in old habits and patterns of life that make it difficult to function properly?  Maybe your joy has lost its luster? The past year and a half has been very difficult.  Wherever you are or whatever situation you find yourself in, let God do some deep cleaning in your heart and restore your soul. As long as you have life, God has a plan and a purpose for your life.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.                     Psalms 51:10 & 12

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.