Tag Archives: Timothy

Interesting Sayings

I’ve been thinking about interesting sayings the past week and how we pick them up. Several have come up in conversation with others recently.

One of my favorites my mom used to say. “If I had my druthers . . .” In other words, if I had what I would rather have. I just like that word “druthers” though. I don’t know where this came from, but I’m pretty sure my mom didn’t make it up. She picked it up probably from her mother or it was a popular saying when she was a kid. We don’t always get our druthers, but we think if we just had them (whatever they are) we’d be happy. Of course, that’s not necessarily the case, but we’d like to have our druthers just the same.

Another saying that I remember my mom using was, “It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.” Now, most ordinary things are, though we do sometimes find ourselves in circumstances where a poke in the eye with a sharp stick would seem preferable. I think the point of this saying is that when we complain about minor inconveniences – like having to stand in a long line at the grocery store or enduring the common cold – it’s good to remember that such problems could be worse. I remember one time several years ago I was talking to an Oregon lawyer who happened to have the last name as my mom’s maiden name (which is not a terribly common name). At some point in the conversation he mentioned that he was originally from Michigan, which is where my mom was born. Then as we talked about something many people had been complaining about he said, “Well, it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.” I couldn’t believe it – I just started laughing. I had never heard anyone but my mom use that saying. Must have been a Michigan saying.

Another saying is one that has always reminded me of my dad, and I heard it for the first time in a long time at the Third Day concert last week. At one point in the middle of the concert when the band was in the middle of the center aisle two rows behind me, Mac Powell asked a man if he could use his seat to stand one. The man stood up and Mac climbed up on the chair so everyone could see him. He started to talk, then out of the corner of his eye he noticed how tall the guy who had given up his seat was. Even standing on the chair Mac was barely a head taller than the guy (and Mac Powell is not what I would call short). He turned to the guy and said, “Well you’re a tall drink of water, aren’t you?” I’ve always loved that description of a tall person, as a “tall drink of water.” It conjures up images of someone very tall and slender, like my dad who was 6′ 5″ and 172 lbs. I don’t know the origin of this saying, but I’m pretty sure it’s a Southern thing.

There are other sayings that have their origin in scripture, though I think a lot of people have no idea that they are based in God’s Word. One such saying is, “He saw the handwriting on the wall.” This saying means that a person sees that the end or their demise is near and imminent. This saying has its origin in the story in Daniel 5. In this story God gives King Belshazzar a message written on a wall by a disembodied hand. The message, interpreted by Daniel, is that the king had been weighed in the balance by God and found wanting, and that his kingdom would fall. Soon everything told by the handwriting on the wall came to pass as King Belshazzar lost his throne. He didn’t want to believe it, but it was true. We can often be just as stubborn. We can see “the handwriting on the wall” but don’t want to believe that anything bad will happen. But sometimes it is important to heed the handwriting on the wall and change our ways.

Another saying from scripture is that “money is the root of all evil.” At least that is what most people think the saying is. But in fact, the Biblical verse is “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” 1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV). It is not money itself that is the root of evil. Money is just a tool, a means of facilitating trade of good between people. It is the love of money as an end in itself and putting our desire for money ahead of all else – including brother and sister, friend and co-worker, and even God – that is the root of evil.

Finally, one of my favorite Biblical sayings is a reference to King David. We often hear someone say, “he’s a man after my own heart.” This refers to someone who is like-minded and passionate about the same things as the speaker. King David was a man after God’s own heart. He was passionate about the things of God and sought to know God better. In 1 Samuel 13:14, the prophet Samuel told King Saul that God had taken away his throne because of the evil he had done, and that “the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people.” Then in the book of Acts, the writer Luke says, “God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” Acts 13:22 (NIV). I like this saying because it is a reminder that you don’t have to be perfect to be a believer after God’s own heart. David certainly was not perfect, but he had a burning desire to know God better. When he did stray, he repented of his sin and returned to the Lord.

So in conclusion, if I had my druthers, I’d make sure that I did not succumb to the temptation to let the love of money consume me, and I’d be a woman after God’s own heart. Long ago I saw the handwriting on the wall if I continued in my sinful ways. I know that not only is following God better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, it’s more refreshing than a tall drink of water.

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The Spirit of Power Defeats Fear

For as long as I can remember I have been afraid of water. At our Women’s Retreat a few weeks ago, the topic came up several times during the second session in which we mingled and asked questions that were printed on the inside of our water bottle labels. Because the retreat had a beach getaway theme, there were a lot of questions about water.

During the first Saturday morning session, we sat quietly meditating on the sound of waves, focusing on our retreat verse, Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God.” During that meditation time, my thoughts wandered to our upcoming (now past) vacation. We had plans to go to the Redwoods in Northern California, but the Lord brought to my mind the jet boat trips that you can take up the Rogue River out of Gold Beach, Oregon. I tried to set this idea aside because the last time my husband and I took that trip about 18 years ago, I was terrified. I hardly enjoyed it because of the knots in my stomach from fear. But it just kept coming back to me.

So when I got home I suggested to my husband that we do the jet boat trip, and he loved the idea. We just took the 104-mile round trip up the Rogue with our son last Monday, July 4. It was a beautiful sunny day, with not a cloud in the sky. The scenery was awesome. We saw bald eagles, cormorants, osprey, turkey vultures, swallow nests, merganser ducks with ducklings, blue heron, deer, otter, turtles, a sea lion, and lots of dogs riding on rafts or out camping. We also had a terrific boat captain who made the trip extra special.

Blue Heron on the Rogue River

But the absolutely best thing about the boat ride was that about halfway through I realized I felt no fear at all. I thought of one of my favorite verses.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV).

The Holy Spirit prompted me to go on this boat ride and He took away my fear of the boat ride. I felt at peace, knowing that I could trust our boat captain, and that I could trust that God would not send me on a trip unless He planned to see me through. The Spirit of power that God has given me defeated the spirit of timidity and fear.

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Thoughts on Physical and Spiritual Discipline

It is a beautiful sunny day here in Oregon, which is a nice change from the cold and rain we have been experiencing since what seems like forever. Earlier in the day I sat down to write my post for today, but I couldn’t think of anything to write. So I decided to take my dog for a walk to our local Petco to get some dog and cat treats we are out of. My original plan for today had been to drive to a PetSmart that is farther away, but because it was so nice I decided a walk would be better and I knew my dog would appreciate a walk.

So this is where I have to confess that I am out of shape and do not get enough exercise. It is less than a mile each direction to Petco, but by the time I got there my legs were tired and I was kind of wishing I had driven there after all. And that was before I had to walk back home carrying the bag of treats! I guess a long winter of not getting any exercise can really leave a person out of shape.

I know that if I walked my dog every day, or even every other day, after a while I would be in better shape and this short walk to Petco would be a breeze. I know this because I used to walk my dog for at least a mile, and usually more, almost every day. When I first started that habit, it was difficult because I was out of shape then, too. But as I developed a habit of taking my dog for a walk and just kept doing it, and it became easier and even enjoyable. I was in better shape then and felt much better, much healthier all the time.

As I got home, I thought about how this principle applies to my spiritual life as well. If I don’t read my Bible or spend time in prayer, or if I don’t go to church for a long time, and then I try to do all three in one day it will be overwhelming and I will feel tired and out of shape. I can find myself wishing I had just watched some TV or read a novel instead. But I know that if I develop a habit of reading my Bible and other Christian writing, of daily prayer, and of going to church regularly, then these spiritual disciplines will become easier and more enjoyable. Then because of them I will be in better spiritual shape and will feel better and healthier overall. But I also know I need to take it slowly and not expect too great of results right away, or I will become discouraged.

Over the past few years I have focused on the spiritual disciplines and have been blessed as a result, but it occurred to me today that I need to combine this with the physical discipline of exercising on a regular basis. It seems in my life I have tended to do one or the other. But to be completely healthy and balanced these things must go hand in hand. For the development of both of these disciplines I must rely on God. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT). It is His Holy Spirit that has shaped in me the self-discipline to strengthen my spiritual health. His Holy Spirit will also shape in me the self-discipline to strengthen my physical health as well, if only I ask.

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The King of Kings Bled

When I was a teenager I listened to a lot of rock music, and I still love the electric guitar and an awesome rock beat. When I first started listening to Christian music I had a hard time finding good Christian rock. It seemed to almost be an oxymoron. The great Christian rock bands that I now listen to were just getting started and their music wasn’t easy to find.

One such band is Audio Adrenaline who, unfortunately, are no longer recording. I actually saw them live during their last concert tour. During that tour they announced it was their last because of throat and vocal cord problems the lead singer was experiencing.

One of my favorite songs of theirs is called “I’m not the king.” Humans have a tendency to want to be in control, to be king (or queen) of something. It might be as head of a big corporation, or merely our own destiny. Some dictators do whatever it takes to retain power of a nation. Others wield power within their family units or within their chosen profession. But whatever it is we are trying to maintain control over, that control is ultimately an illusion. We are not really the king of anything. The singer of Audio Adrenaline recognizes this in the song:

The king of rock, some say lives
The lizard king is surely dead
The king of France lost his head
The King of kings bled

I’m not the King I just sing yeah
I’m just a fraction of a thing yeah
I am not anything without the King of kings

We are nothing without the King of kings, Jesus Christ, in our lives. I’m not the king of this blog. What I write here is of no consequence unless I seek to be led by the Holy Spirit and to glorify the King of kings. I’m not the king of this blog, I just write, hoping that the King will be pleased.

 But why is it that I can’t be king? God created me with talent and intelligence. I have the ability to make decisions and to decide what to write. I am the one who hits the “Publish” button each day. Surely I can be in control of at least this small part of the world and not mess it up. Can’t I? Perhaps not.

If I were King I’d be unwise
For my brains aren’t King size
A King’s someone to trust and love
Like Jesus Christ whom I sing of

On my own, I do not have the wisdom to rule even this tiny blog. I do not have the power to save anyone. You cannot trust in me for your salvation and I have done nothing to deserve your love and admiration. All I can do is point you to the King of kings, who can save you and more. He is someone you can trust and love. He is Jesus Christ, whom I write of.

Do you have some kingdom you are trying to rule on your own? Are you finding that isn’t working out so well for you? Is there revolt in the streets or on the factory floor? Do things seem to be spinning out of control? The King of kings is there for you; you can ask Him to take control of your little kingdom and He will gladly rule it wisely and with love.

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen. 1 Timothy 6:11-16 (NIV).

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Epiphany

Today, January 6, is the holiday of Epiphany. It is a date commemorated in both the eastern and western Christian churches, though many western Christian denominations do not celebrate it in any way today. I remember mentioning it once to a friend who is Seventh Day Adventist, and she didn’t even know what Epiphany was.

Epiphany falls 12 days after Christmas, and is the source of the 12 Days of Christmas (which contrary to popular belief are not the 12 days prior to Christmas). Epiphany, based on the Greek word epiphaneia (ἐπιφάνεια), which means “appearance,” is the celebration of the appearance or incarnation of God to the Gentiles or non-Jews. In the western church, the focus is on the visit of the Magi to honor Jesus as the newborn King. In the eastern church, the focus is on the baptism of Christ, when He first appeared to the whole world as the Son of God when the Dove came to rest upon Him. In either case, the focus is not on His birth, which is the focus of Christmas, but rather on the fact that He is the incarnation of God for all people.

The primary way I have personally commemorated Epiphany (though I didn’t do it this year) is that when I set up my Nativity sets for Christmas I place the Magi somewhere different from the rest of the Nativity scene. This is because the Magi were still traveling at Christmas and traditionally it is thought that they arrived some time after the actual birth of Jesus. One year I even moved them closer and closer to the Nativity scene throughout Advent and the days following Christmas until they finally “arrived” to honor the baby Jesus on January 6.

In the New Testament, the Greek word for Epiphany more often refers to the prophecy of Christ’s Second Coming rather than His first appearance in the manger. Paul uses the Greek word epiphaneia six times. 2 Thessalonians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:10, 4:1, 8; Titus 2:13. All but one of these verses refer to the time when Jesus will appear once again. Only 2 Timothy 1:10 refers to His birth, and says, “And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News.”

If you have wondered why my blog header had the Nativity scenes after Christmas was over, my anticipate of this holiday was the reason. But tomorrow I will be changing the header; I will be taking down the Nativity scenes with the Magi and putting up something different. But for today, I wish you all a blessed Epiphany!

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The Relationship Plan, Part 5

I know you’ve heard of Paul — he wrote most of the epistles in the New Testament. And I know you’ve heard of Mark — he wrote one of the four Gospels. But have you ever heard of Barnabas? He’s mentioned in the New Testament, primarily in Acts. He’s not that well known, but if not for him you would probably have not heard of Paul or Mark. As we discussed in our adult education class last Sunday, he did an excellent job of implementing Jesus’ relationship plan of evangelism.

In Acts 4:36-37, we learn a little bit about the character and background of Barnabas:

Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

This passage shows Barnabas’ generosity, but it also reveals probably the most important aspect of his character — He was an encourager. This is shown repeatedly in his relationships with both Paul and Mark.

Barnabas was also filled with the Holy Spirit and had wonderful spiritual discernment. After Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, he began preaching the gospel. However, because Paul — also known as Saul — had a history and reputation for persecuting Christians and having them tortured and thrown in jail, many of the believers in Jerusalem were afraid of him. But not Barnabas; he could see that God had really changed Paul and that he was a true believer.

When he [Paul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. Acts 9:26-28.

Later in Acts, when the Good News was being preached in Antioch to the Gentiles, Barnabas was trusted by the apostles to be sent to check it out and make sure the Gospel was being preached correctly and that the people there had good leaders. When he arrived and found that all was well, he encouraged those who were preaching. He also went and found Paul and brought him back to Antioch to teach and preach.

[M]en from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.

News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.

Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. Acts 11:20-26.

Up to this point, when Barnabas and Paul are mentioned together, Barnabas is always mentioned first. That was intentional on the part of Luke (the author of Acts) to show that Barnabas was the leader on these occasions. This is seen also in the beginning of Acts 13 when they went on a missionary trip to Cyprus. But later in chapter 13 they are referred to as Paul and Barnabas. This indicates a shift in leadership. Throughout their time together Barnabas has been discipling Paul, teaching him to be a disciple and to lead others. Barnabas taught him well, as the Lord Jesus would have wanted him to, until Paul was ready to make disciples of others. As we learned in the study of The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman, that was Jesus’ Great Commission to His disciples before He ascended into heaven.

But what about Mark? The scriptures reveal that Mark (also known as John Mark) was a cousin of Barnabas. Colossians 4:10. He accompanied Barnabas and Paul on their first missionary journey, but in the middle of the journey he left them and returned to Jerusalem. Acts 13:13. Later, when planning another missionary journey, Barnabas wanted to take Mark with them again, but Paul objected because he thought Mark had deserted them and would not be useful.

Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. Acts 15:36-40.

Barnabas clearly saw something in Mark that Paul did not. He had a closer relationship with Mark and because they were related he likely had a wider range of experiences with Mark from which to reach his conclusion that Mark was worth discipling. In the long run, this disagreement between Paul and Barnabas was likely God’s will for them so that they might cover more territory and bring more people to Christ than they could if they continued to travel together.

Barnabas’ trust in Mark also paid off. As mentioned above, Mark is believed by most Bible scholars to be the author of the Gospel of Mark. In addition, he later became a trusted companion even of Paul, who wrote to his friend Timothy: “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:11. Because Barnabas saw something in Mark that was worth cultivating — some quality that was spiritually discerned, such as humility and a willingness to follow Christ — he was willing to spend time with him, teaching Mark all that he knew about our Lord and the means of salvation through faith.

As we have concluded this study on leadership and discipleship, I look forward to the opportunity to be like Mark and to learn more from those who are more mature in their faith than I am; and I look forward to being more like Barnabas, being able to spiritually discern the potential for discipleship in others. I am excited about seeing the Master’s plan of evangelism and discipleship implemented in my own church and in my own life outside the church. It’s all about the relationships we make; it’s about investing time and energy in making disciples of those we are in relationships with. This is Jesus’ plan and that’s good enough for me.

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How Much Does God Love Us?

As part of my Bible-in-a-year schedule I’ve been going through the Old Testament again. As I read, I am reminded of the relationship between God and the nation of Israel. One thing that has occurred to me is that Israel in the Old Testament as an archetype of the present day believer. The whole story of Israel’s relationship with God has several important characteristics:

  • Israel becomes God’s own people and they follow God beginning with Abraham and his descendants
  • God watches over Israel by providing for them in Egypt when famine comes to their land
  • Israel is rescued by God and delivered from Egypt after the Egyptians enslave them
  • Israel turns away from God and worships a golden calf of their own making when they feel lost and don’t know what happened to Moses
  • God chastises them through Moses and they repent and return to God
  • Israel complains about their lot in the desert and say they were better off in Egypt
  • God provide them with food and water in the desert, but because of their grumbling their time in the desert is longer
  • God finally brings them into the promised land and they have an abundant life where they worship God
  • Israel enjoys prosperity and wealth in the land the Lord gave to them
  • Israel, under the rule of various kings, strays from God and begins to worship the pagan gods of the nations around them
  • God becomes angry and punishes them with defeat by their enemies and eventually exile from the promised land
  • Israel returns to the worship of the One True God and God brings them back from exile and restores them to the land they were promised

It is a  recurring theme of Israel straying from God in both good times and bad, then God would chastise and punish them, but then they would repent and He would save them. Through it all, Israel never ceased to be His people. He never ceased to love Israel. The prophet Hosea recorded the word of the Lord regarding His anger towards unfaithful Israel and His undying love for her:

Hosea 2

 13 I will punish her for all those times
      when she burned incense to her images of Baal,
   when she put on her earrings and jewels
      and went out to look for her lovers
   but forgot all about me,”
      says the Lord.

The Lord’s Love for Unfaithful Israel

 14 “But then I will win her back once again.
      I will lead her into the desert
      and speak tenderly to her there.
 15 I will return her vineyards to her
      and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.
   She will give herself to me there,
      as she did long ago when she was young,
      when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.
16 “In that day,” declares the LORD,
       “you will call me ‘my husband’;
       you will no longer call me ‘my master. ‘
17 I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips;
       no longer will their names be invoked.

  23 I will plant her for myself in the land;
       I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one. ‘
       I will say to those called ‘Not my people, ‘ ‘You are my people’;
       and they will say, ‘You are my God.’ “

So how is this like the present day believer? There is a point in the life of each believer when we first accept Christ as our Lord and Savior. But as time goes on, we forget the initial joy we had when God saved us from the state we were in. We might encounter trouble and complain that God is not there for us. We turn away from God and seek our own answers, our own gods to worship such as power or money. Then God will somehow show us the error of our ways as those other gods truly fail us and we repent and are restored in our relationship with Him.

At other times, we may be prosperous and living a life that is going better than we ever imagined. We may forget God’s hand in our prosperity and pride may cause us to turn from God and worship our own abilities and strength. But because He loves us and is more concerned about our relationship with Him and our eternal destiny, God may not allow the prosperity to last as a means to bring us back to Him.

For some believers, this may happen several times throughout our lives as we, like Israel, forget what God has done for us and how much He loves us.

But once sealed with the Holy Spirit we will remain God’s chosen ones, we will remain His beloved people. As Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus:

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14.

Just as He did with Israel in the Old Testament, God will do whatever it takes to bring us back to Him because He loves us even when we are unfaithful, because “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13. He has given us His Holy Spirit to teach us and convict us of sin so that we will return to Him when we stray. Israel had only the law to keep them in line with God’s will, but we have the Holy Spirit and the power of His grace to keep us safe and in His will.

Do you know how much God loves you? Do you continue to worship and love Him only in good times and bad? Do you hear His Holy Spirit say to you “you are My people” and will you always respond “You are my God”?

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Growing Seeds of Faith

A while back I posted about growing my new lawn and how growing seeds of faith takes the right balance of truth and love. Looking at my lawn this morning, I few more thoughts came to me about seeds of faith and how they grow.

But before I get to those points, I need to share what has happened with our lawn over the past two months. The lawn was growing nicely by mid-July. Because the weather was dry we had the sprinkler set to water it for a few minutes several times per day. We kept noticing that the lowest corner of the lawn stayed wet and a bit muddy. In fact, there was often a puddle in that corner.

Then, 4 days before we were scheduled to go on a 2-week vacation to New York, my husband said, “Did you realize the sprinkler hasn’t been on for 2 days?” I was surprised because the mud puddle was still quite evident. It was then that we realized the muddy spot was in line with our water main. So we had to dig a hole in the lawn to find out for sure. There was a leak, but thankfully the plumber was able to replace the water main without digging a trench across the whole lawn! It was fixed about 3 hours before we were scheduled to leave for our flight. 

After we returned from New York, my husband spread some new grass seed on the dirt spot where the hole had been filled in. Last week I noticed the grass seed was beginning sprout. Unlike the first time we planted seed, none of the seed was washed away by the sprinkler or rain. 

As I looked at that small patch of grass sprouts this morning, a couple of observations regarding seeds of faith came to me. First, these new seeds that were sprouting were surrounded by mature grass that had already sprouted and grown. They were not washed away because they were protected by the grass around them. In the same way, the seeds of faith are more likely to sprout and grow if the person they are planted in is surrounded by others with mature faith, who have already weathered the trials and tribulations of life and the testing that strengthens faith over time. It occurred to me that those who are more mature in their faith should do what they can to protect and nurture the faith of the new believers whose faith has just sprouted.

My second observation was that these sprouts are small and not as mature as the grass that surrounds them. But they are alive and flourishing at their current stage of development. In the same way, some believers in the body of Christ are less mature in their faith than others. But that does not mean their faith is less alive or real than that of more mature believers. Those whose faith is mature should not look down on or criticize the not-yet-matured faith of new believers. And new believers should keep in mind what Paul wrote to young Timothy: “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” 1 Timothy 4:12.

My third observation was that someday all of the grass will look the same. What now are little sprouts in the midst of the lawn will someday just be part of the lawn, their mature blades indistinguishable from the rest of the grass. That is because on a basic level each blade of grass is the same. It started from the same seed. It is the same with believers. We all start with the same seed of faith being planted by God in our hearts. The same Spirit lives in each of us growing and maturing our little seed of faith so that we can be “confident of this, that he who began a good work in [us] will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6.

My lawn is like the body of Christ, each blade like a believer growing a bit more each day. No one blade could stand on its own for long and survive, but together they make up a beautiful lawn, strong and healthy. In the same way, no one Christian can stand on his or her own for long and survive, but together we make up a beautiful family, strong and healthy, growing a bit more each day.

It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. Ephesians 4:11-16.

Are you like a baby sprout of grass in your faith? Then don’t try to go it alone. Find a body of mature believers who will help you grow in your faith and understanding of God’s Word.

Are you a mature believer? Then keep an eye out for the newly-sprouted seeds of faith that come into your midst and do what you can to protect and guide them so that they might grow to maturity. Speak to them truth in love, rooted in Christ our Lord.

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I Fear No More

I was looking through one of my old journals today, reading some of the poetry I wrote long ago. Okay, it was in the mid-1990s, so not that long ago, but it seems an eternity. I read this poetry and am simply amazed at how God has changed me and my attitude since then. At that time, and for some time leading up to that, I was filled with fear and worry. I thought I would share some of those old poems. For those of you who know me now or who have read even a small part of this blog, you will see a stark difference between the woman I was and the woman I am now.

Words That Hide

Words are hiding in the ink
deep within my pen

Words are hiding in the dark
deep within my mind

I know they are there
because I see them when I try to sleep
They run around in circles
Playing their word games
And keeping me awake

But when the sun comes up
and I try to write them down
They hide again within my pen
and deep within my mind
In the dark within my mind

I know they want to come out and play
But they are afraid
At night in bed they feel safe
Playing in my mind

What will others think of them
If they play upon a page?
In lines and curves of black
Shining on the glaring white
It seems much safer just to hide
Within my pen
Within my mind
In the dark within my mind

Untitled

The me that no one knows
Writes poetry and prose

The me that people see
Writes briefs in legalese

The me that no one knows
Seeks counseling for my woes

The me that people see
Pretends I’m always pleased

There’s really only one of me
But different sides I reveal
Depending upon the circumstances
Or how I think I should feel

Oh, how God has changed me and taken away my fear! Now I do write poetry and prose on topics of interest to me and do not fear what others will think. Or if I do feel some fear, God gives me the courage to write anyway.

No longer to I pretend all is fine when it is not. But I also now know how to feel joy and happiness as well as sadness when it is warranted. God gave us a whole host of emotions. How I feel is no different from how others feel. The words about how I feel and what I believe no longer hide in my pen or in my mind.

I want to share one other poem that I wrote in 1996 about my son, who was 1 1/2 at the time. It is interesting how much the words I wrote about him then are still applicable today.  It was inspired, as I recall, by the fact that I used to sing him the song “You are my sunshine.”

My Son Shine

His smile is a thousand rays of sunshine
Shining brightly on a rainy day

His laugh is a hundred birds singing
Heralding the beauty of May

His dancing will make you smile and laugh
In its own very silly way

His curiosity rivals that of a hundred cats
You can see it clearly in his play

His temper is a howling hurricane
When he doesn’t get his own way

He is sweet and silly and stubborn and bold
He will be with us always I pray

Well, that’s enough poetry for one day. Maybe I’ll share more some other time.

I am just so grateful that God has given me the courage and strength to write this blog, to share the wonderful things He has done for me and the way He has changed me from the fearful woman I was once was to someone who is bold and ready to face the world with Jesus at my side. If you struggle with fear, cry out to Jesus to help you, to give you courage to be the person He has made you to be. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7.

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Rebuilding in the Face of Opposition

I recently wrote about my return from exile and mentioned having gone through a Bible study on the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. I decided it was time I reread those books, and today I started by reading through Ezra.

The book of Ezra is about the Israelites return to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon and the rebuilding of the temple of God. As I read through this book, I noticed of a couple of interesting things.

First, God used Cyrus, King of Persia, to facilitate His plan to bring the Israelites back to Jerusalem. Cyrus was not one of God’s people, but he knew enough about this God of the Israelites to want to please Him. Cyrus understood that God was in charge, as indicated by the first line of his decree regarding the Israelites: “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.” Ezra 1:2.

But how did Cyrus come to know of God in the first place? It was because the Israelites had lived in Babylon since their exile under King Nebuchadnezzar. The wisdom of some of the Israelites and the power of God as revealed to the kings of Persia was recorded in the book of Daniel. Because they held onto God during their exile, the Israelites made Him known to Cyrus. After Cyrus, and in part because of his decree, King Darius supported the rebuilding of the temple and the Israelites’ worship of God.

The second thing I noticed is that the rebuilding of the temple did not proceed without opposition. The enemies of the Israelites sent letters to the kings of Persia complaining about the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple, asking the king to forbid it. In the case of the letter to King Artaxerxes, the enemies were successful and rebuilding was halted for a time. Even when the Israelites had the permission of the king, there was opposition. “Then the peoples around them set out to discourage the people of Judah and make them afraid to go on building.” Ezra 4:4. But in spite of this opposition, the Israelites continued in their work and the temple was eventually completed.

So what does this mean for us today? First, we must grasp what Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.

When we believe in Christ, the building of God’s temple in us begins. In this process, God often uses non-believers to accomplish His purpose of drawing us to Himself. And sometimes they will come to know Him in the process.

Also, once the decree has been passed and the building begins, there will be opposition. The enemy will try to discourage us from growing in our faith. The enemy will try to make us afraid to move forward with God’s plan for our lives. But we must continue on in spite of such opposition.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord.” 2 Timothy 1:7-8a.

Continue building the temple of God within yourself in furtherance of God’s kingdom. God has decreed that it be so, and just as the decrees of the kings of Persia could not be changed, so the decree of God is forever.

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