In the Garden

She carefully planned each step, stretching her little legs as far as she could to reach the imprint her father made in the fresh tilled soil. She placed her tiny foot inside each of his impressions two or three times before moving on to the next.

Heeding to his instructions she dropped one or two seeds into the holes he prepared. He did not need her help to accomplish his goal but delighted in teaching her the way as his father had shown him.

The tiny building beside the garden where livestock once found shelter from the storms now only housed the dry dung from days gone by. Using the dirty silver bowl, she found inside, she joyfully scooped one serving at a time and carried it to the garden as a fertilizer to ensure ultimate growth.

The dry parched land lapped up each drop she gave the seeds to drink from the jug, as she gripped the handle tight. Helping her father in the garden was hot work but would be most rewarding when new life sprang forth.

Many years have come and gone, and her earthly father has passed. But, once again, with childlike wonder, the little girl carefully follows in her Father’s footsteps to help Him in the garden; trying her best to follow her Father’s every instruction. With each drop from her bucket a thirst is quenched.

She spreads the seeds of His love in the cultivated hearts, fertilized with the dung from her past. She knows she may not see the final stage of new life that springs forth, but she is content to be able to share even a small part of their unique journey.

The living water that flows from the Father above into her life below and into the lives of others is enough. She joyfully sings a new song He places on her heart and praises His name for the freedom it brings.

Free as a bird to soar overhead and carry His messages and spread His love.  All of this He could do on His own- but He chose her for His purpose to give meaning to her life and help her grow in full richness of His glory.

We are part of His grand design to follow His path and help each other using our gifts for His glory. The few who find it and follow in His steps will be blessed beyond measure. The more we lift to Him the more that will be poured back down, it will return to us even better than how we released it.

In the garden of life, He has set forth a path for each of us to follow. He goes before us to guide us each step of the way. In childlike wonder we look up to the Father. He will lift us up on His shoulders for a new perspective that we are to share with others. The path leads to His kingdom and a glory not yet known. But its beauty will amaze you – don’t you want to come along?

The Art of Listening

I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to have lunch with a lady who had significant hearing loss since birth. She did a very good job of reading lips. I on the other hand did not do as great a job making out her words. I saw right away this was going to be a challenge for me even though she managed her words very well for someone who could not hear.

I began to focus on each word as it escaped her lips so I could see the shape of her mouth to anticipate what she might be saying so I could respond appropriately. When I could not understand a particular word and had to ask her multiple times to repeat it, I felt really bad. Although she is probably used to that and did not seem to mind repeating and trying her best to help me make out her words. I paused after each sentence before I responded. I repeated over and over in my head, “Help me, Holy Spirit.”

I admittedly have not been a great listener in the past. I will attempt to inject my two cents worth before the other person completes their thought. I am aware of this and have been training myself to be intentional about listening to understand instead of thinking about my response. I also try to pause before responding and ask the Holy Spirit to help me with my answer. Having lunch with this kind lady gave me some much-needed practice. I realized more than ever how intently I was listening.

Isn’t this what God wants of us? How much do you think our Heavenly Father wants us to be still, listen, and pause for an answer? Maybe He even wants us to take our time while praying and communicating with Him and not rush through our prayers- He is a great listener. But, once we have all our thoughts out, we need to give Him a chance to speak.

 You may be surprised what He has to say.

James 1:19 My dear brothers and sisters; take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

Perseverance & Protection

Did you know God gives us resources to ward off the enemy? Maybe you have read about the armor of God in Ephesians 6:11-17.  Paul’s metaphorical descriptions of the “armor of God” along with instructions on how we should wear it to protect ourselves are clearly listed. But did you know he gets many of the parts from the OT, in the book of Isaiah? He even quotes Isaiah in the book of Romans that relates back to the armor of God. We sometimes dismiss the OT for different reasons, but there are many great messages and instructions for us in those books. The entire Bible is composed by people just like you and me whom God revealed his Word so that we could benefit from it, even today. It is God’s story. Everything in the OT points to the coming of Christ and everything in the NT is about Jesus’ life on earth in human form as well as His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. It is there for a reason, not to just take up space.

Regarding the armor, Paul gets the belt of truth or faithfulness from Isaiah 11:5, “Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.” The ESV study Bible explains that the Messiah is not clothed with the trappings of human ego but is truly qualified to rule the world. Isaiah 52:7 is quoted in Romans 10:14-15, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who bring the good news, who publishes peace, who brings news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, your God reigns.” Isaiah 59:7 states, “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head, he put on garments of vengeance for clothing and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.” God “put on” the powers of a fully equipped warrior to fight off sin. He was committed to His victory from the depths of His being. We are to do the same with the resources God gives us. Like a soldier going to battle we can fight off our enemy, Satan, because of Jesus Christ.

The Greek word for “whole armor” is panoplia and relates to the complete equipment of a fully armed soldier with shields and weapons. The metaphors Paul uses for spiritual resources are given by Christ and are truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, salvation, and the Word of God are all aspects of God’s and the Messiah’s own character and work, as depicted in Isaiah, with which Christians are now equipped. The armor of God is the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace (always ready to proclaim the gospel), helmet of salvation, sword of the spirit (word of God) and he adds to this perseverance and to boldly proclaim the gospel while staying alert for the enemy. Did you know the opposite of perseverance is disobedience? So, in essence our basic obedience to God helps us fight off our spiritual attackers and helps us cloth ourselves in God’s armor.

Human resources are not enough, we must take up the whole armor of God to go up against spiritual forces. These are made available to all believers. We can stand firm against the enemy as Christian soldiers in a battle. The weapons of warfare are spiritual because they are rooted in prayer, the main and most powerful resource we can use. Paul says to pray “at all times”, “with all perseverance”, and “in the spirit”. Jesus’ prayers, when he was on earth, were always heartfelt and tearful. His prayers were answered then and He now stands with every Christian to intercede on their behalf so that ours are answered now.

We, as children of God, because of Jesus, can come boldly to the throne, in fact we are encouraged to do so. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) That is only possible when our sins are forgiven through sacrificial and the intercessory ministry of Jesus. God’s throne implies that Christians have the privilege of a personal relationship with God and can have confidence to speak to Him honestly without fear. Just like a good father expresses to his children and wants them to come to him; we can go to God.

Jesus did not leave us unarmed and unprotected when He ascended into heaven. Jesus Himself prayed for us as future believers before he ascended. I find that comforting. He also left us the gift of peace, and the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and protect us until He comes back for us.

“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 14:27)

“it is to your advantage that I go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” (John 17:20)

Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages and notes referenced are in the English Standard Version.

My Friend, Jesus

Let me introduce you to my friend Jesus. Have you ever felt an instant connection with someone your best friend introduced you to? Simply because your friend knows them, loves them, and cares about them, you have the desire to get to know the person better. It is even more true when Jesus is the best friend we are introducing to our friends. When they see how much we love Him and the difference He has made in our lives, hopefully they will have the desire to know Him as well.

This is also true when Jesus introduces us to one of His friends by crossing our paths. When we see they also know Jesus, it gives us an instant connection, a bond, and desire to get to know them better because Jesus loves and cares about them. The truth is Jesus loves and cares about everyone. Because Jesus is our best friend, we need to love everyone too. If they do not know Jesus yet, it is a great opportunity to introduce them.

I read something this week that resonated with me and provided a framework for what it means to be in a relationship with God and to believe in Jesus. It is not just to know about him in the intellectual sense, and believe He exists, but to fully know Him in our heart. To believe in the power of his saving grace, rooted deep, anchored, steadfast.

We can accept Him and believe with our whole heart, repent, and ask for forgiveness of our sins and enjoy a relationship with Christ. He is a mighty King who takes care of and protects His sons and daughters, so that we can live with Him in eternity, not because we deserve it, but because Jesus is worthy, and He went to the cross for us.

Have you ever stopped to ask God what he wants for you? It is a life changing question. I will tell you what He wants. He wants the best…ALWAYS! He wants to be in an intimate relationship with you. When you ask this question in sincerity, the weight shifts from your shoulders to God’s shoulders. If I had known it would be like this, I would have done it so much sooner. If you do not know Jesus as your friend and protector, what are you waiting for? Jesus saves. We cannot just say we believe in God and go on about our business. Jesus is the best friend we will ever have. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. Jesus is the only way to the Father.

Now more than ever we need to tell everyone we know about our friend Jesus. Sadly, there are people in this world who call themselves Christians who do not reflect the biblical image of Christ at all. It has put a bad taste in some people’s mouths. We cannot group them together with true Christ followers. God will handle those people in due time. But we are still to love and pray for them even when they seem unlovable. I pray that God opens their eyes, minds, and hearts to His truth. I boldly and proudly call myself a Christ follower. For those of you who have a bad taste in your mouth or have been hurt by the church, first let me say how sorry I am for that, and I pray you will see the difference and not give up on God. There is much joy in a true and intimate relationship with Jesus.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV)

“Vengeance is mine, and recompense (I will repay), for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.” (Deuteronomy 32:35)

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Heart Condition

Have you ever heard someone ask the rhetorical question, ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ I propose, to get the answer, one must first understand the falsity of the question. According to Romans 3:10 no one is righteous, not even one. In other words, none of us are ‘good’. The bad things that happen are the result of sin and a broken world. Thankfully, one’s salvation does not hinge on one’s good or bad behavior, but rests solely on the finished work of Christ.

It is the work of the Holy Sprit within one’s heart that changes their desires as they seek to be a better person according to God’s will. This is called regeneration. It is an important factor in becoming a Christ follower. We are all born with heart condition and the only remedy is through a relationship with the Ultimate Physician. When we surrender and ask what God wants for us, we no longer want to follow the things of this world but do that which pleases our Father.

For me, I remember being as far down as I could possibly get; I exhausted all my own options before I finally looked up to ask the most important question of my life, “God, what do you want?” At this point, I relinquished control and surrendered my way for God’s way. The change that occurred was gradual, not immediate, but none the less obvious. We are justified (forgiven) immediately and forever, because of Jesus, but the work of sanctification is a life-long journey and will not be complete or perfect until we are with God in our eternal home. But we can ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to be more like Jesus every day until one day it will be so.

Aman

A Greek word meaning: to believe. The verb denotes trust. An action decision to believe in the trustworthiness of a person. It can also signify an ongoing state of belief and the action associated with faith. (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Greek glossary section).

Last week, I lost someone that had only been in my life a short time. But during this time, he made a great impact on my life. My new boss of only 78 days died at a very young age. Although at times, especially early on, the days could be challenging, God used him to help me use my voice to speak up and set some needed boundaries on my time.

My first thought was that I did not know what he believed. I did not have time to share any of my personal testimony with him or ask him anything about himself. But God is now using his death for a purpose in my life- to fuel the fire God placed in my belly to share the truth of Jesus Christ with others. I do not want his death to be in vain. I was deeply saddened over this loss and grieve the shortness of a life with such potential, but will use it to fan into the flames of the gifts God gave me, tell my story, share my testimony with anyone God places in my life that needs to hear it.

God gave me peace with the loss and I know he is in a better place, but it also reminded me of the urgency of telling everyone I love about the intimate relationship that is available to us and what a difference it made in my life. We are all called to share the gospel. We need to be good stewards of our gifts, talents, time, and treasure. If we are unsure of your gifts, let us ask God. Then stop talking and lean in to listen to what He has to say. “For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened,” (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007 Matthew 7:8).

We are called to be fishers of people. (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Mark 1:17). Jesus’ last commandment was to go out and make disciples- The Great Commission. (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Matthew 28:19). Life is short, who do you love enough to share the truth? Ask the tough questions, take risks for the sake of the Kingdom. Give God all the glory. Be grateful. Share your faith in love. Galatians 5:3 says, “What is important is faith expressing itself in love.” John 3:16 tells us that God loved the world so much He gave His one and only Son so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. This brings new life. Do you believe this? Do you believe in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and what that means for us?

It is not enough just to believe, but we must put our faith into action and follow Christ wholeheartedly. Stop straddling the proverbial fence and go all in. If you are lukewarm, He will spew you out of His mouth. Jesus calls His followers to believe in Him, but also to trust, love and obey Him. Sometimes we have trouble with that word ‘obey’, but it is not the authoritative tyrant kind of obedience He calls us to. It is the type of obedience that a loving Father knows what is best for his little children. He says choose you this day whom you will serve. We can not serve two masters. We have a free will to choose, but there are always consequences to our choices.

When our time is up, do you we want to be found following this world, which is temporary? What do we have to show for our efforts when this world is gone? It is my hope that you choose Jesus because what He offers is an eternity of joy and peace. We are to lay up our treasures in Heaven, (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Matthew 6:20) People like to skirt around the truth and make everyone feel better about the choices they make, but the truth is written in God’s word for us to follow. It is a guide called the Bible. It tells us there will be a judgement day for the choices we make in our lives, but there is redemption through the blood of Jesus, who died for our sins so we can be saved and spend an eternity with Him in glory.

This Good News is be shared – It is my hope that you know Christ as your personal Savior, but if you have any questions about how to accept Jesus in your life or desire an intimate relationship with Him and not sure how or where to start, please reach out to me at angela@faith-ealk-ministries.org.

“This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord,” (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, 2 Timothy 1:6-8)

(V9) “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did not do this because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time- to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.”

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else and live righteously and He will give you everything you need.” (New Living Translation, 1996,2004,2007, Matthew 6:33)