The Cactus

Photo by Yigithan Bal on Pexels.com

This desert living plant is a symbol of endurance and perseverance amid all circumstances. The cactus is not moved by any extreme and it even blooms despite the harsh elements.

Since the fall of man, sin and suffering entered in, causing this desert we live. The elements we are exposed to are harsh and painful. A desert lacks sufficient water and has extreme pressures of heat, many living things can’t endure under these extremes

We cry out to our creator, “How do we endure this?”

He says, “This was not the original design. You weren’t made for the desert, but fear not, because I have a master plan of rescue so that you can endure through it all. At the cross I set it right. The debt was paid. I took your debt upon myself so that you would lack nothing. You no longer have to try to endure on your own power. I conquered sin and death and you have my power to sustain you.
They meant it for evil, but I meant it all for good.

The cactus stores up water. The water you need, is found in the Living Water. This Living Water will never leave you thirsty.” You have a well that will never go empty no matter how dry or neglected the circumstances may become.

You will persevere. Just like the cacti, you will bloom in due time. Nothing will prevent this. I will protect you because you know my name and have tasted this Living Water.”

When you look at this cactus, may it be a reminder of the strength that you have through Jesus who endured and conquered the dry and painful desert. You are not alone. He is helping you. He is preserving you. He is upholding you.

For we do not have a high priest who is not unable to empathize with our weaknesses. Hebrews 4:15

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Colossians 2:7

In due time you will reap a harvest. Galatians 6:9

God is with you!

Childlike Faith

I have this sweet, 6 year old student. She has been taking piano from me for only a few months. We were about to start our lesson; she was getting her books out of her bag, and then she just came right out and said, “Do you believe in Jesus?” My heart just melted! I said, “I sure do.” She smiled great big! She then said sadly, “Do you know, only a couple of people in my class believe in Jesus?”

I have since thought about that short exchange.

Here is this little girl, with simple faith. She certainly believed and she wanted others to as well; that gave her joy. She displayed loving the Lord and loving others very simply. She had no hidden agendas, ulterior motives, or puffed up ego, just simple faith.

I realized, we DO need to grow and learn, but It doesn’t matter if we are 6 or 60, our need for God never changes and that simple faith that we had as a child or even a new believer, need not be traded in. Every day, it would do us good to return to our child like faith and say as one preacher said, “give me Jesus! You can have all the rest, but give me Jesus!”

Jesus had this to say about children,

“And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”

There is a difference between childish and childlike. When I think of childish behavior, I think of letting emotions rule and acting out on them impulsively without restraint.

We should not remain childish, but remaining childlike is a whole other matter.

My observation of childlike behavior includes:

• Simplicity

• No cynicism

• No hidden agendas

• No hidden motives

• Vulnerability

• Trusting

• Simple joy

• Being present

My grandmother had this childlike faith. It was remarkable, and so winsome. She was no theologian, nor did she care to be, but she knew her Bible and she loved Jesus and she loved others. Isn’t this what is required of us?

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God

Micah 6:8

My grandmother said at the end of her life, “Be happy with yourself.” Was this one of the keys to her child like faith?

When we are negative, comparing ourselves, being unforgiving, abusing ourselves, being hypocritical, complaining, criticizing and worrying we are killing our joy.

When we make a habit of engaging in joy killers, it’s safe to say we aren’t too happy with ourselves, and if we aren’t happy with ourselves, how are we going to love the way Jesus commanded us to love?

This is a reminder to me, more than anyone, to simply and faithfully come to the feet of Jesus. It all starts with Him! The Lord is my Shepherd. Help me to be content. Help me to love You more, Lord, and love others. I can’t do any of this without the help of the Holy Spirit. We have been given the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us along the way, moment by moment in every stage of our lives.

If you haven’t known this simple faith, the invitation is yours. Come! Jesus will take it from there.

What Are You Living For?

We watched the new movie Tōgō about a musher, Leonhard Seppala and his 12 year old sled dog and team, who go through extreme odds to get an antitoxin serum for an outbreak of Diphtheria in Nome Alaska. It is a well known story, that has been given its own name, “The Great Race of Mercy.”

There were several times I was moved to tears in this movie. After we watched the movie, I laid in bed thinking about the loyalty of that dog, the endurance, sheer spirit and enthusiasm. Towards the end of the movie Seppala said, “I always thought he lived for the sled. What he lived for was me.”

Before I turned out the light to go to sleep, I read a couple of devotionals, one talked about perseverance and although trying times may come in life, you can still emerge from them triumphant. God promises to never leave us. His authority and power are leading and sustaining us through all the storms in this life. In another devotional, at the end it asked, “do you intend to obey God, to obey His Word? Do you really want to do His will? Or have you already decided to follow your own way despite what God’s Spirit will say?” The challenge in this devotion was, are you willing to lay down your own ambitions, elevating His will, not your own?

I prayed, Lord, I want this and yet I fail miserably. I want spirit and enthusiasm for you Lord. I cried to the Lord about the longings of my heart and the trials. I then fell asleep.

The next morning I opened my eyes and I thought about Tōgō and the scenes in the movie of him just wanting to be with his master, he had no fear. He was willing to face the treacherous storm and all the obstacles because he loved his master and wanted to be with him. He trusted him above all else. Nothing else mattered. Upon waking with these scenes in my mind and tears in my eyes, my Lord whispered comfort in my ear and showed me a picture of Himself through that story. He showed me, I am living for Him. He is leading this race and it is a race of mercy. He won’t let us fail. In our weakness he will strengthen us, all we need to do is run to Him, live for Him, obey Him, because we love Him and this is what we are made for. He gave us dominion over this earth, we have been crowned with honor in His name.

My heart broke and my eyes filled with tears as this picture of my Heavenly Father and me became so vivid and clear!

What is the greatest commandment? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

The more we submit and grow in our love for Him, the more we understand who we are and our purpose in this life.

Below is a picture from 1925 of Tōgō and Leonhard Seppala.

I want to be in the loving arms of my Father at all times. There, is love, there, is safety, there, is where I’m meant to be.

Psalm 16 Part 8

“I have set the Lord before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” Psalm16:8

Jesus walked blameless and in complete submission to the Father. Jesus went to the cross on our behalf and now sits at the right hand of the Father. Right hand is symbolic of authority and power.

We are faced with a decision; we either say, “Lord, your will be done”, or “my will be done.”

If God is for us who can be against us?

“Therefore my HEART is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. Psalm16:9

The Bible uses the Greek word “kardia” over a 1000 times. God has a lot to say about our hearts. The heart seems to be closely connected to our emotions, impulses and desires. God made us beings of worship, and we will worship something or someone. Is this why God is so concerned with our hearts?

Psalm 15:2 says to “speak the truth to our hearts.”

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “the human heart is deceitful above all things.”

Proverbs 4:23 says “Guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

The remedy is a new heart! God, in his great love, sent Jesus to be born of a virgin, to dwell on earth with us and ultimately suffer and die, so that we can be redeemed and given a new restored heart. Our new heart will rejoice and be glad! We can rest secure! Why? Because death has been swallowed up! Abundant life is given; we have fellowship with our Father.

This last verse sums up the whole Psalm.

“For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your holy one see corruption. You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures evermore. Psalm 16:10-11

He won’t abandon me. Why? Because He is LORD. He is my refuge and His promises are sure!

He made known the PATH OF LIFE. What is this PATH OF LIFE?

-We admit our need. We are poor in spirit. Apart from Him we can do nothing.

-We are part of a body and we have a unique function within that body. We can’t function fully as we were created to unless we are glorifying God as part of the body.

-“You shall have no other gods before me.” What idols are keeping you from this path of life.

-Jesus is our chosen cup and portion! He is life!

– He is our counselor and instructor. This path of life has been made known to us. Our minds are being transformed. He is showing and revealing Himself to us through His Word.

The psalmist, again, speaks to our hearts at the final part of the verse; “there is fullness of joy and in his presence, pleasures forever more.”

We are reconciled with God, no more death! Abundant life and joy is mine through Jesus! This path of life that Jesus perfectly walked is made available to us through Him.

“Hail the Heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness!

Light and life to all He brings

Ris’n with healing in His wings

Mild He lays His glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

Hark! the herald angels sing:

“Glory to the newborn King!”

Psalm 16 Part 7

“I will bless the Lord who counsels—even at night when my thoughts trouble me.” Psalm 16:7

Oh how I can relate to this. So many nights I have laid unable to sleep with only my thoughts, no distractions. The trouble of the days and weeks attack like an enemy on the front lines.

My dad would tell me when I get in this loop to start praising! God hears the praises of His people and the enemy hates it! I admit I haven’t gotten the best handle on it yet. It is so hard not to let worry, doubt, and the cares of this world consume me, but I can testify that when I choose praise and thanksgiving, my heart and mind quickly start to turn around. The problems may still be there but my peace and joy are not stolen.

How do we fight these battles? It is in communion with God. Remember, apart from Him we can do nothing.

If there is habitual sin in our life that we haven’t confessed this will be a block that will hinder our relationship with the Lord.

So, first get your belt of truth on and examine your own heart to see if there be any wicked way. Always have the belt of truth on—truth of who God is and who we are and the truth of the gospel!

Our faith will extinguish all the arrows that come at us. Our faith is a shield. (Ephesians 6:16)

Don’t let the trouble spin around in your head. Protect it with the helmet of salvation. God has already saved us, no weapon formed against you will prosper. It’s a done deal. It is finished. All we are asked to do is believe it, and put our whole trust in Him.

Read and read and read Scripture—feed on it, soak it in and speak it! It will slice right through anything coming up against you. It doesn’t stand a chance. The Word of God is truth!

Prayer – look no further than the example of Jesus. He fought his battles in prayer to His Father.

“Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise!” James 5:13

If God is for us who can be against us?

 

Psalm 16 Part 6

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Psalm 16:6

Contentment in Jesus, is this not what the Psalmist is leading us to? So far we have seen in Psalm 16 that God is our protector. God is all together good, apart from Him I can do nothing. We delight in God and his people. Idols multiply sorrows. God is my all in all.

I’m doing a little survey of my heart right now and if I’m going to be honest, contentment is easy when things are going good; money in the bank, health is good, no inconveniences, everything in working order, but we all know that if we do have moments like that, they won’t last long before something breaks down or someone gets sick, or relationships get broken, or any number of afflictions.

How our heart responds when the going gets tough is a reflection of our level of discontentment. I don’t mean to say that when things are going south that anger or sadness or depression is a sign of discontent, it most certainly is not. Our feelings are our feelings. Jesus felt all these things, but he didn’t let those feelings rule. He walked in obedience and faith in the midst of his trials. The peace that the world talks about is not the peace that God defines. Peace with God is, though we feel the longing, even the ache, we have full conviction that this is not the final word. Our beautiful inheritance is awaiting. Our God reigns.

Contentment is saying, not I, but YOU LORD!

“If I become content by having my desire satisfied, that is only self-love; but when I am contented with the hand of God and am willing to be at His disposal, that comes from my love to God.”

Jeremiah Burroughs – The Rare Jewel of Discontentment

I would argue that discontentment is the root of all sin. I don’t want a little discontentment to take root. Lord help me to find my rest in You no matter the circumstances that come upon me. I’m an heir to the King of Kings!

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Psalm 16 Part 5

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot.” Psalm 16:5

The other night, I had such an unquenchable thirst. I just kept drinking water and it wouldn’t go away. It was not a pleasant feeling. I wondered how much water I was going to have to drink for it to go away. I just wanted satisfaction!

In reading verse 5, I quickly thought of the woman at the well.

Jesus said to the woman, “if you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would ask him, and he would give you living water.”

The woman was confused and only looking at the external. Jesus then went on to expose the spiritual and what he was rightly speaking to.

This lady had had 5 husbands and another one in the works.

This lady clearly was trying to fill her cup with something that would never satisfy.

One husband, then another and another…

Jesus is saying, “I’m that living water, you will not go thirsty again.” He is the only one that fills this excessive thirst within.

There is an old Christmas movie called the Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant. Cary Grant is an angel sent down on a mission to help a couple find their way. In one scene the angel is having a drink with some others and the mortals notice that even though they are drinking, their cups keep refilling, and they never get drunk, but they are so joyful and fulfilled.

I love this scene because it’s a good attempt of an illustration of what Jesus is to us. He is all we need. We will never thirst again. Nothing else, no matter how pleasurable it is will every fully satisfy. Remember verse 4 from the previous blog, we are warned about what idols will do. When we keep drawing water from any other well, it will never do. We will be caught in a downward spiral. Jesus is saying I have a gift for you! What will you choose?!

Our future is sure when we make the choice to drink from the Well–Jesus!

“Fill my cup Lord. I lift it up Lord. Come and quench this thirsting of my soul. Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more. Fill my cup. Fill it up and make me whole.”

Psalm 16 Part 4

V4.

“The sorrows who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their name on my lips.” Psalm 16:4

A “god” is anything you give yourself over to completely. It occupies your thoughts, time, your money, your talk. A “god” is something that has a hold on you. A “god” is something you serve. A “god” is anything you aren’t willing to give up under any circumstances.

From the beginning, our creator God made us with the desire to worship. We were created to worship God alone.

St. Augustine said, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

God has given us so many wonderful blessings on this earth, but our hearts, while always thankful for the gifts, should ever gaze on the giver—this is where our hearts are contented. When we try to fit anything into the place only meant for God, we will add misery, restlessness, and sorrow. The weight and price of sin is too much.

Every breath is given by our creator. We don’t take one step without God giving us the grace to do so. His mercies are new every morning.

I have to ask myself, what areas in my life do I need to examine? What distractions are keeping me from worshiping God with my all my heart.

We are not perfect and God knows this, and he is giving us grace upon grace every moment. We are not alone. Jesus has taken the weight of sin upon himself and we don’t have to carry it. This is the greatest gift.

All glory to God alone for He alone is worthy! In Him is fullness and life! Nothing else compares.

Psalm 16 Part 3

V.3

“As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom all is my delight.”

“As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones”

We, who are in Christ are part of a body and in that body we aren’t meant to be in isolation. A leg or arm is not of much use unless it’s attached to the body. When we are working together in unity there is delight! There is excellency!

Psalm 133:1 “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

Our greatest capacity of displaying Christ to the world is in the whole body of Christ.

When our delight is to love the Lord and serve him with our whole heart, we will delight in being part of the body, working in unity. It feels as right as breathing. When our goal becomes more self centered and our ego gets in the way, this is where the harmony gets broken. The alto wants to be the lead voice, except the alto is no good as lead voice, but what beautiful harmony it provides when it’s glorifying God in its right function. And how missed the alto part is when it’s not providing its function that was set before it.

There is excellency when all is working in unity. No chaos or fighting for position. Each part is special and unique and God created us to walk in the function he set before us as part of the body.

John 17:23

“I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

“In whom all is my delight.”

Our joy will be multiplied when we are serving and working together as one in the body glorifying God. We will be strengthened and encouraged. We will grow and mature in Christ when we are in unity with the body. The enemy knows we are stronger together, and he wants to do all he can to keep us isolated. Don’t let him distract you from keeping in step with the body and performing the function God designed for you.

Ephesians 4:16

“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.”