Monday, June 26, 2017

You Are Here!


[Photo of a woman looking at which road to take]

“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths;
guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are
God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”
—Psalm 25:4-5

I used to think that only young adults had all the questions about “Where do I go next” or “What does the Lord want me to do with my life?” I have learned through painful experiences that, as circumstances change, these questions come up again and again in life. We don’t somehow get wound up like a spring in our youth and, once set in motion, run automatically until we “wind down” at the end of our lives.

God gives us times when we sense His call to consider where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going. Sometimes, it seems easier to only look at the past and the future because the present seems full of questions. In those times, we need to stand and look. As Jeremiah 6:16 tells us:

This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

In our frenetic lives, we often fail to stop and look, to consider, to pause for a “Selah” moment. Yet therein lies the cure for our anxious questions, our confusing outlooks, our deep need for the Counselor, the Holy Spirit.

When we spend the time required to consider where we are, and where God wants us to be—and, when we pray earnestly as Moses did in Exodus 33:15-17—we receive the reassuring answer from Him:

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

One friend of mine takes an occasional retreat weekend to a favorite cabin in the woods to get her bearings and renew her commitment to the Lord. Though we cannot all do that, we can spend extended times alone with God’s written Word and in prayer to get the direction we need.

Our God waits for us to come to Him in sincere faith asking for new light on the path ahead. It pays to stand and see the sign, “You are Here!”



Monday, June 19, 2017

The Most Exotic Flower


[Photo of a beautiful flower]

“We love because he first loved us.”
—1 John 4:19

An exotic plant takes extra care: avoidance of drafts, careful watering, the right soil, lots of sunlight, and an appropriate climate. No one can just water and forget this kind of flower.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes about this:

Love is an exotic; it is not a plant which will flourish naturally in human soil, it must be watered from above. Love to Jesus is a flower of a delicate nature, and if it received no nourishment but that which could be drawn from the rock of our hearts it would soon wither…Love must feed on love. The very soul and life of our love to God is His love to us.1

We know that love to God and love to each other appears in the greatest commandment, recorded in Matthew 22:37-38:

Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

In the great “Love Chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13, we read in verse 13 that:

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

The list of the “Fruit of the Spirit” listed in Galatians 5:22-23 begins with the most exotic plant—Love.

In and of ourselves, we do not have the soil or the ability to grow the flower of love. According to Romans 5:5, we must lean on the Holy Spirit, who sheds abroad His love in our hearts.

Pastor James Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle recalls an Easter Sunday in which he sat down on the edge of the platform after the evening meeting. He sat there exhausted as people continued to pray around him. Shortly, a man with shabby clothing and matted hair came toward him. Pastor Cymbala had no desire to speak with another person that night, tired as he was.

However, he nodded the man forward and spoke to him. This is how he describes the encounter:

When he came close, I saw that his two front teeth were missing. But more striking was his odor—the mixture of alcohol, sweat, urine, and garbage took my breath away. I have been around many street people, but this was the strongest stench I have ever encountered. I instinctively had to turn my head sideways to inhale, then look back in his direction while breathing out.2

After briefly speaking with the man, David, the pastor prayed, “God, forgive me.” He swallowed hard as God’s love flooded his soul.

David sensed the change in me. He moved toward me and fell on my chest, burying his grimy head against my white shirt and tie. Holding him close, I talked to him about Jesus’ love. These weren’t just words; I felt them. I felt love for this pitiful young man. And that smell…I don’t know how to explain it. It had almost made me sick, but now it became the most beautiful fragrance to me.3

David surrendered his life to Christ that night and got the help he needed. His life changed forever through that encounter. Pastor Cymbala sums this up by saying:

Carol and I have found that unless God baptizes us with fresh outpourings of love, we would leave New York City yesterday!4

Those of us who desire to obey our Savior’s admonitions to love Him and to love others must realize that, like growing an exotic plant, the conditions must come from the source of nourishment: the love of God for us. We cannot hope to accomplish anything unless His loving Spirit indwells us and makes God-breathed love possible.


1 Spurgeon, Charles H., Morning and Evening. McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, Public Domain. p. 326.
2 Cymbala, Jim. Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997. pp. 141-144.
3 Ibid
4 Ibid



Monday, June 12, 2017



[Photo of a young girl sticking out her tongue]

“I gave them this command: ‘Obey me, and I will be
your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the
ways I command you, that it may go well with you.’
But they did not listen or pay attention; instead
they followed the stubborn inclinations of their
evil hearts. They went backward and not forward.”
—Jeremiah 7:23-24.

Blame it on a poor regular classroom teacher, poor class makeup, or even my inability to teach them in my music class, this fourth grade made it impossible for me to deal with them! Even though I loved this age group the best, this particular class refused to allow me to teach.

I had so many fun games and songs to use. I knew that if they had only given me a chance, they would have loved my class and learned a lot at the same time. Every singing game that involved holding hands in a circle ended in some kind of tug of war or refusal to participate. Games with a ball ended in someone trying to “get another classmate.”

These children preferred to goof around, waste class time watching each other play, and generally refused to enjoy the lessons I developed for their best interest. I modified my lessons to do everything I could to turn them around. And then, they had the audacity to complain that they were bored!

Do we treat our Lord the same way? Do we refuse to accept His plans for us and generally make it impossible for Him to deal with us? Do we miss the good things He wants for us because we think we have a better idea?

Sometimes, we stubbornly hold on to things that do nothing to help us, or give us joy. We fight against those alongside us whom He has given to us for the sake of His good purposes. Then we wonder why our lives disappoint us, and the Lord seems so far away.

If this attitude describes us, we must return to the Lord and His mercy. We need to promptly acknowledge His righteous and loving purposes. And, we need to take to heart the message of these verses from Micah 7:18-19:

Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.



Monday, June 5, 2017

Preacher Kid


[Photo of a large wooden gate]

“From the lips of children and
infants you have ordained praise.”
—Psalm 8:2

Children do so well at repeating what they have heard, and they do so with such authority! One day in a public school music class, I was teaching the spiritual “Who Built the Ark?” It contained the musical element I was explaining that day, so I felt perfectly comfortable presenting it, though some might consider it a religious song.

As I always did when I could, I talked about the background of the words. I asked the second grade children to describe an ark and, if they could, tell about Noah’s story. One little girl fairly burst at the seams to tell the class what she knew.

After telling how Noah built this huge boat at God’s command, he called the animals in two by two. She told how Noah believed God when He said it would rain and only His family would be saved. (Genesis 6-9)

She ended the long, correctly detailed story with the statement, “And God closed the door.” She paused, and then in a louder voice, quoting Revelation 3:7 she said, “Did you know that when God closes a door, no man can open it, and when He opens a door, no man can shut it?”

How could seven-year-old Charlotta possibly have known that I was struggling that day with a decision I thought rested solely on my own reasoning? She reminded me that we serve a sovereign God. We cannot thwart His purposes with our finite minds—especially when we have already asked Him to guide us.

My decision didn’t rest on my own solution. God doesn’t often rubber stamp the plans we make because we have such brilliance. Yes, He will work through our minds, experiences, best considerations, friends’ advice, but only when we have trusted Him with the outcome.

If we make sure that we haven’t taken over the reins of our journey and truly put our faith in His ability to guide us, no matter what the results we can believe He will accomplish His sovereign purposes for us. Guidance of that sort includes listening to the conversations around us. And, we shouldn’t discount what even children can teach us. Sometimes God uses their sweet, raspy, little voices to speak His truth!