Saturday, January 1, 2022


 

God's Prescription for a New Year


What a year 2021 has been !  We have had a continuing plague/epidemic, fires, floods, extreme heat, extreme cold, restrictions, isolation, fear and all the other emotions and responses that go with an unstable environment. 

2022 is standing on the threshold and once again it is the time the age old question arises...  … “What about New Year Resolutions?” 
I doubt anyone is thinking about New Year Resolutions this year.  We can hardly predict what tomorrow will bring, let alone make long range plans or set future goals. 
The only hope we have for the new year is to hold onto God's hand and trust that He will guide us through the coming days.  If we keep our eyes on Him we know we will be safe. 
When it comes to the bottom line I think we will all acknowledge that if something feels secure, if something has the settled feeling of truth, we can easily trace it back to God as the source of it. 
So why don't we start the year with putting God's directives first and strive to hold onto that no matter what the new year is destined to bring. 
 I did a search  and found some interesting scripture references about the first day of a new year, and I want to share the important truths these verses hold for us today.  
 I will quote the verses in the order of occurrence in the bible. I invite you to walk with me through “God’s Prescription for a Happy New Year!” 

Trust His Promises 
The very first reference to the first day of a new year is in Gen. 8:14 where it says……”And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry.” Here we have the first reference to a New Year’s Day .. and isn’t it exactly how we see a new year - as a new beginning, a clean slate, a reason for renewed hope and excitement of what the new year will bring? Here we see Noah standing with the promises of God over him , symbolized by the rainbow ! How thankful we can be for God’s promises that are new again on the first day of a new year! What promises of God are important to you as you  stand to begin 2022? 

Pay attention to His Commandments 
In Ex. 12:2 we read…”This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.” Then God gives His instructions to Aaron and Moses regarding the Passover. If they would follow His instructions God promised the destroyer would not have power to strike them ! 
The first month of a new year - take time to review God’s commandments. Are we obeying God’s laws so that He can bless our coming in and going out in 2022?   Do we hold His Word  high as our shield to protect us from the fiery darts of the enemy ?

 Prepare a Place of Worship 
In Exodus 40:2 God commanded the Israelites ….. “On the first day of the first month you shall set up the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.” What a perfect time...the first day of the first month… to set up a time and a place for us to fellowship with God - to prepare our heart as a tabernacle in our busy, and oft, confusing lives. A  spiritual  'tabernacle'  where we can retreat to meet with God face to face  -- a habit that keeps us faithful throughout the year. 

Make Necessary Repairs 
In II Chron. 29:3 we read about Hezekiah , the king. “In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them.“ Perhaps your ‘tent of meeting’ needs some repair. Has something crept into your life that has broken it down or made it a place cluttered with things that should not be there?  How easy it has been over the last year to allow negative thoughts, attitudes, habits to find a seat in our hearts and minds.  Maybe it's time to do some 'house cleaning'.  To bring it all to the Lord, and commit ourselves afresh to make Him Lord of our life - the One who sits on the throne of our heart. 

Sanctify Yourself 
In II Chronicles 29:17 we read, "Now they began to sanctify on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the LORD. So they sanctified the house of the LORD in eight days, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished." 
Sometimes we are overwhelmed with thinking about how often we fail before the Lord, or how far we are from 'perfect'.  But notice the word 'began' in the above verse.  Though the sanctification began on New Year’s Day .. it took some time. As it should for us as well. It takes time to examine the things in our life and put them in order. To prioritize, to downsize, to sort and discard, to clean. We belong to the Lord, we are His tabernacle. Is everything in our life ‘sanctified’ -- set apart ‘ for His use? Or are there things that we keep just for ourselves, our own selfish pleasure or profit? 
Let us  examine the things in our life - and begin the work needed in our personal inner life as well as the outer things seen by others.  Let us desire to be in the best place we can be to offer ourselves as a 'temple of service'  to honor and glorify our Lord?

Prepare for a Journey
 It is interesting that Ezra, having received permission from the king to travel to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of his beloved city, began his journey on the first day of the first month. "On the first day of the first month ...". (Ezra 7:9)
I love that he began his journey …. “according to the good hand of his God upon him.” (Ezra 7:9) 
What a journey 2021 has taken us on.  And now we are about to embark on a new journey.  It too is of a year's duration!  We have no idea where the journey will take us …or even if we will complete the journey. Though the journey is one into uncharted territory, how comforting to know it has already been planned  ‘according to the good hand of God upon us’ !! He has already gone before  to prepare the way for us! 

Repent
In Ezra 10:17 we read “By the first day of the first month they finished questioning all the men who had taken pagan wives.” Is there sin in our life that is displeasing to God? Are we willing to rid ourselves of it, repent and then wholeheartedly follow after God and His righteousness? We know that if we repent, He is 'faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us ... " (I John 1:9) 

Listen for God's Voice 
There are several verses I found where it speaks of hearing God’s voice as in Ezra 29:17 “And it came to pass in the twenty-seventh year, in the first month, on the first day of the month, that the word of the LORD came to me, saying…”   Do we hear God’s voice this New Year’s Day ? Are we listening, eager to hear what He is saying to us ? We are so quick to make our own plans, but if 2021 taught us anything, it taught us that plans can change in a moment. How important it is to listen first to what God has to say and then our choices, our decisions will be good ones and our steps will fall in solid places! 

Prepare a Sacrifice
 In Ezra 45:18 God called for a special sacrifice on New Year’s Day…. “Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall take a young bull without blemish and cleanse the sanctuary’ .” A sacrifice… something special you offer to God that is of value to Him because of what it accomplishes. I offer you a challenge. This new year give something to God that is just between you and Him…perhaps something He has already been speaking to you about… perhaps something you have never done before… perhaps something no one else will ever know about!

I wish YOU, my dear friends, a very blessed New Year ! and pray that it might be a special journey that leads you into an ever closer walk with God. ***

Monday, November 29, 2021


 When bad things happen, where is God?

Probably about a year ago or more... I noticed a strange lump on my left elbow.  It grew and grew until it was so large it fit into the cup of my hand.  It was rather unsightly so all summer, no matter how hot it was, I wore long loose sleeves to keep it hidden. 
It was a lipoma -- a benign tumor that grows under the skin.  It can grow anywhere on the body. 
There is no cure or treatment -- it can only be removed by surgery.

      I was combing my hair in front of the mirror one day last week and  looked at the growth protruding from my elbow.  I talked to the Lord about it. "Lord, I know it isn't life threatening and maybe I am being vain , but ... couldn't you just melt it?  Take it away?"
Later it seemed to me it might be smaller, but I thought I was just imagining it and I went to bed.  The next morning when I got up, I realized that it was completely gone, completely, as if it had never been there. I could feel the bones of my elbow !  I went into the kitchen and said to my husband.. "Do you believe in miracles?"   He said, "Yes, of course !"  and I held up my arm.  He looked, stared and then shouted .. "Praise the Lord !!!!"   
It took me a while to believe what the Lord had so lovingly done for me.  It felt like a warm hug.  

     I could have asked... "Lord, why did you so easily get rid of this tumor when I asked, but you have not healed me of Celiac nor rheumatoid arthritis that has caused me so much pain and suffering over the last 25 year." I did not ask God that question because I know the answer.  God did not heal me of my RA because there is a reason for  it.  It is needful in the purposes and plan of God that would be hindered if He healed me.  

     I like to think of it this way.  A child becomes very ill and is in hospital undergoing frightening (to the child) ,uncomfortable, painful treatment and procedures.   The child cries and begs to go home - looks to the parents to stop the hurting.   The parents are there and their heart aches for the suffering of their beloved child but they do not remove the child from the hospital or prevent the treatment given by the doctors and nurses.. Why?  Because they know this is the only way for their child to be helped and the only way for it to get better.  They stay with the child,  bring candy and treats to brighten their day , hold the child in their arms and love it... their hugs assuring the child of their love. And the child trusts them. 

      So God too has a reason why He does not always heal us or prevent the difficult times that come into our life.  But He allows only what He can turn for our ultimate good and for His glory. 
It is not easy to understand or see purpose when we are in the middle of suffering, just like the child in the hospital -- but one day looking back we  see what God accomplished through it.  

     God so desires us to trust Him, know Him as a loving Father and he gave us so many examples in the Bible to show us His ways and purposes when 'bad things happen'. We tend to read the stories backward and go... Wow!!  but stop and think about what it was like for them BEFORE they saw the purpose of God. 

     We see Shadrach, Meshach and Abednigo who were trying to survive in a foreign land,to worship God when everyone else was worshipping false gods and idols.  And of course they were hated !  They were 'tried and found guilty'  and they were condemned to be thrown into a burning furnace.  We read their brave words but any one in their situation would  have felt dread and fear twist their emotions . just  thinking about being burned alive !!  Where was God?  The king looked into the furnace and saw 4 men walking.. not three ... God was in the furnace WITH them !  (Daniel 3:25)

     We think about Joseph and all he suffered for so many years..  torn from his family, made a slave, falsely accused, thrown into painful stocks in a prison and yet Joseph recognized that while 'men' meant his suffering for evil, God was working it for good... not just for Joseph but for many many people. (Gen. 50:20)

    Who does not know the story of Job and his suffering ?  The  financial losses, the killing of his servants and his children, then the loss of health .. his wife turning on him, and his friends accusing him. Where was God ?  watching over him, in control, knowing that all would be restored to Job double.. but the best thing would be that Job , instead of living in fear, would come into an intimate relationship with God. (Job 3:25,26 -- Job 42:5)

     We see Paul who begged God to take away "his thorn in the flesh" but God refused. Why?  Because God understood Paul's natural bent and He knew that without a 'deterrent' in his life Paul would grow proud of what God could do through him and his ministry and God's purposes would be spoiled. Without the thorn in the flesh , Paul may not have written much of the New Testament. (II Cor. 12:7)

     A king' son was sick and he died.  Why did God allow the child to die when he had not done anything wrong?  Why was his life cut short?  Where was God?   Watching... and we are told that God took the child to Himself because  the palace family was evil. Only the child had 'goodness' in him and God could not bear for the child to suffer the wickedness around him so He 'rescued him'. ( I Kings 14:12,13)

     Then we have Jonah, unwilling to obey God's command to go to Nineveh and he ran away to hide in a ship going in the opposite direction.  Then when the storm threatened to sink the ship, there was only one way to save the ship and crew, throw Noah overboard.  Where was God?  Right there watching, and had a big fish ready and waiting to swallow Jonah and when Jonah repented , throw him up on land.  Jonah reluctantly then obeys even though his heart is not in it and he hopes that God will NOT save the Ninevites.  Jonah has a bad attitude but where is God ? Right there.  He even causes a plant to grow to shelter Jonah from the heat.  (book of Jonah)

     I could go on and on. The stories are so many,  addressing so many different 'bad things that happen'. Take note when you read the accounts of the Bible characters, put yourself into their shoes and then follow through to what God was able to do in the end. It is the endings we love and remember but the 'end' could not have come without the difficult times.  

     So when you feel alone and abandoned in the middle of trials and trouble remember that God cannot lie!!  He says that He is "no respecter of persons" -- meaning that God does NOT make one person more important than another.   If you believe that ANYONE is important to God then you have to write your name alongside   What God will do for one, He is committed to do for you!   He will not let you go through anything that He will not go through with you and work for good, no matter how hopeless it looks. 
     He gave us His Word, His LIVING Word .. .it is not a yellowed letter, long-ago written and forgotten, out of date. NO .. it is new and fresh every morning, not one word has ceased to have meaning for YOU.   God put  living examples in our Bibles  to prove who He is and since God is the same yesterday , today and forever, we know that what is true in the past is still true today. 

     Our God is truly a faithful and ever present God -- His eyes, full of love, are upon us , His purposes for our life are for good and not evil and we can without reservation trust Him completely knowing He is right beside us walking WITH us. And we can count our blessings, even in the midst of the storms. 

Thursday, August 26, 2021

New Life Mandeville




Three summers ago I bought a Mandeville plant, but it didn't do very well.  I took it in for the winter - it struggled through without completely dying and I put it out in the summer.  It stayed very sickly looking but, being loath to kill something that still had a few green leaves on it, I took it back inside and watered it.  It did not grow and I know it really was not worth keeping.  But, believe it or not I again put it out in a corner of my patio last spring to see what it would do...Well, the best it did is that it didn't completely die. So for the second winter I let it sit in my ensuite with its few half-yellow leaves and thin branches. 
This spring I put it out again, tucked it out of sight, where I didn't have to look at. It grew a little, but nothing that impressed me.   
Then, a miracle happened !!  

One Christmas my daughter gifted me with a book , "The Hidden Life of Trees" by Peter Wohlleben. A very interesting book by a man who could be called a 'tree whisperer'.  One thing he said stuck with me. He said that plants communicate with each other and if two or more different plants are planted in the same space they are provoked to fight for personal growing space - becoming very competitive. They do  not do this with like-plants. 

A dear friend gifted me with a little miniature rose plant several weeks ago. Not wanting the plant to die (I do NOT have a green thumb) I thought it would do best planted outside.  Since my half-dead Mandeville plant wasn't growing anyway, I decided to plant my little rose bush in the same pot. Several days later I looked out my kitchen window and to my shock saw a cluster of super-big Mandeville leaves !  Really?  As you can see in the photo the plant suddenly took on new life and it is thriving, full of fresh new growth and even BUDS !  

I saw a spiritual lesson in this. One of God's object lessons tucked into His creation. 
I thought of the verse in Hebrews 10:24.  The old KJV has the words "Let us consider one another to PROVOKE unto love and good words."  (other translations use  words 'stir up'  'motivate' 'encourage' instead of 'provoke') But I think the word 'provoke' best fits with this object lesson. 
Just like planting the rose bush into the Mandeville pot - PROVOKED the Mandeville to suddenly grow,  so also we are called to 'provoke' one another, in love, to grow in  'good works'  and be an example to those who are watching. We cannot do this if we don't  'have close relationships with one another'. 

We have been 'isolated' or 'quarantined' for much of the past year and a half and we have not been gathering together.  And we see the 'lack' of growth.  Churches open but attendance is low.  Airlines report a sharp increase in aggressive behavior. Is this why we are admonished in Hebrews 10:25 not to "forsake the assembling of ourselves together,....... and the more as you see the day approaching."? In the middle of that verse it repeats the 'provoking' thought , "exhorting one another".   

In a politically correct world mind-set we have lost that zeal to watch over our brothers and sisters to stir them up in their faith.  My Mandeville plant reminded me how important it is to 'be our brother/sister's keeper".  We need each other to grow and be strong. Alone, it is easy to become weak.

Paul, in Romans 14:12-23 spells it out how we are to live in relationship with one another - and if our relationship, our interactions  with one another are not motivated by love, then we will "destroy the work of God" ..

The apostle John's sermon is still all we need to live worthy of God's praise, "Children, love one another!" 



Sunday, July 25, 2021

Me and My Ducklings






ME AND MY DUCKLINGS
 I have always loved animals.  Loved to care for them .. loved to tame them.... loved to win their trust, even wild animals. 
We had a little pond on our yard  and one day I decided it needed some ducks to enjoy it.  
So we went to the nursery and  bought several duck eggs and set up a warm place for them to hatch in our foyer.  Duck eggs take longer to hatch than chicken eggs so it took some patience on my part.  
However, after 28 long days of waiting and watching the eggs hatch.   The ducklings were adorable, of course! 
A baby duck needs a 'mom' and their pre-programed instructions are to watch for the first thing that moves because that is their mom and they are to follow her.   
It so happened, of course, that I was the first thing to move in their range of vision so I became, by default or by design, their 'mom'. 
I loved them, especially their gently soft contented cooing sounds.  But it only took me moving out of their sight that the cooing became panicked, piercingly, high pitched squawks that did not let up until I stepped in their view again.   They refused to eat or sleep if they could not see me, and when I lifted them out of their enclosure they followed me as fast as their webbed feet would take them -- close at my heels.   What fun I had with them.   Of course as they got older they were okay living outside with each other for company.  I no longer had to be in sight all the time although they still happily came when I called them, but they had learned that I would reappear if I was gone for a time.  

The memory of those ducks came to mind the other day and thought about how we behave when God is 'out of sight'.  
We too have a pre-programmed awareness of God and our need of Him, but like my little ducklings we need Him to be 'in sight'.  

What does 'in sight' mean to us? 
 Does it not mean when everything is going well, and we have everything we need or want and we feel God is smiling down on us?    But there is nothing like hardship, or disappointment, or loss, or something going side-ways that we begin our panicked 'squawking'  calling for God to 'show Himself' and put things right again. 
Yet, of course, just like I was not 'gone' when my ducklings couldn't see me, so also God is not 'gone' - He is still watching over us -- He will not leave us, no matter what ! 
Psalm 139:7

REFUSING TO EAT
If my ducklings could not see me, they refused to eat. Because the food was suddenly gone?
No, of course not, I made sure there was always enough food and water for them.  But they would have starved to death, with plentiful food in front of them, if I had stayed out of sight! 
It is a bit humbling to acknowledge, but are we not just like that?  
We feel God is 'out of sight' or far away and we focus on our grumbling or our complaining.  We are so consumed with worry or anxiety that we refuse to 'eat' of the good things that God has abundantly supplied.   It is right there in front of us, but we have blinded our eyes to it and refuse to 'eat' . We are so focused on the problem, on the 'what ifs' and the 'have nots' that have upset our day or our life, that we turn away from the God whose eyes are ever upon us.  The God who desires to encourage us with His love, to remind us that His promises do not fail. The God who will not leave us or forsake us.  No matter what we are going through He will work it for our good.  He desires that we eat of His provisions before us.  our faith, our trust in Him never faltering! 
Phil. 4:6,7 , Is. 43:2, John 14:27 

FOLLOWING 
My little ducklings never questioned where I was going, or where I was leading them.  Their only  focus was to keep up with me and go wherever I was going. 
Would that we were like my little ducks.   Not concerned where God is leading us, not questioning His plan for our life , but  our only concern is  to keep up with Him, following His word and voice.   
Matt. 16:24 

CUDDLE TIME 
If I was sitting on the grass, it didn't take long and all my ducklings were cuddled up close, on my lap, cooing contentedly.  It always melted my heart to see how much they trusted me. 
It didn't not matter to them that I was 'other'. They didn't question how much bigger I was than them, they never feared that I might hurt them or cause them harm in any way.   They never questioned me in any way.  I was their 'MOM" and all was well with their world. 
They loved nothing better than to be held and cuddled ... are we not also held in God's hand? Does He not invite us to draw near, to bask in His Presence? 
Is. 55:8,9   

UNDERSTANDING 
Did my ducklings even begin to understand me in an intellectual way? Hardly...  and did it matter?  No...  It did not matter that they did not understand me - it only mattered that I understood THEM !  
Is that not a picture of us and God as well?  We cannot begin to comprehend all that He is... but does it really matter ?  No ... it just matters that He understands us !  
Jer. 1:5, Matt. 6:8, Ps. 139

PRAYER  "Dear Heavenly Father, how we praise you for your wisdom .  We thank you for your love toward us and are so grateful  for your unfailing care over us.  We place our trust in you even when things around us seem dark and fearful because there is no one else we can trust!   Fill us with your Presence and your Holy Spirit, that we may never falter in our steps as we follow you wherever you may lead !   We love you, Lord !  in Jesus' name , amen."