Tending your Garden of Faith


Daffodil_webYesterday I went and pulled a few carrots out of my garden to add to a roast I had going the crock pot. There in the middle of my otherwise dead-looking garden (besides a few leftover carrots from last summer), was growing a single daffodil. It was funny to see because it’s something I did not plant.

Typically I’m not to surprised by what comes up in my garden, but this flower was a neat little treat. It set me to thinking of how it got there. The only thing I could come up with, is that a bulb got mixed in with some dirt I had purchased, or that it was mixed in with some of the manure I had used for fertilizer. Regardless, it was a pleasant surprise that reminded me of the hope of Spring right around the corner.

Gardening is something I thoroughly enjoy. I by no means consider myself an expert gardener, but I do enjoy the process and am learning as I go. There is much work that goes into gardening. First of all, the soil needs to be prepped and then seeds planted. Then it needs regular watering and weeding. Finally, a good amount of sunshine is necessary for growth. There is nothing like seeing the first sign of a sprout popping it’s head up through the soil or eating some of your crop for dinner. It’s really a very rewarding process.

I love the the analogy of gardening to that of our spiritual walk of faith. Just as gardening takes a good amount of work, so it is with our walk with the Lord. We must always be tending the garden of our faith so that in due season we can produce a good crop. We do this by growing in our Knowledge of who God is and by and putting our faith into practice by loving Him and loving those he puts around us.

In 2 Peter 1:5-8 it reads: For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As a garden will not grow on its own, so it is with our faith. Peter says we need to nurture our faith by adding things like goodness, knowledge, self-control, etc. We are told that if we possess these qualities and keep adding to them, they keep us growing.  Our garden of faith will only become healthy and thrive as we are careful to tend it.

Some of the things that keep us from growing and being unproductive in our faith are things such as impurity, idolatry, discord, fits of rage, hatred, jealousy, distention, selfish ambition and so forth (Galatians 5:19-21). These things are the weeds that so often spring up in our garden of faith and can choke out our crop if not removed. We are to be continually pulling these weeds as they spring up in our lives.

We have a sin nature that is continually at battle with our Spirit nature.  Therefore we are told to put to death these things (sin) lurking within us so that we can walk by the Spirit. By choosing to walk by the Spirit we produce good fruit in our lives.  Peter goes on to say in Galatians 5:22-23 . . . But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. When we are faithful to tend our garden of faith, God provides the Sonshine and we are rewarded with a bumper crop of goodness.

Father God thank you for your love and your goodness to us. Help us to daily walk by the Spirit and to put to death anything in our lives that is not of you. Help us to grow in our knowledge of who you are and in our love for one another. Thank you for your work on the cross and for paying the penalty for our sin. Help us to live for you. To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN

Facing Fear with Faith


fear_1787202cOne of the biggest obstacles I’ve had to overcome in my life is fear. Growing up, I lived in a neighborhood that wasn’t the greatest. Gang activity and crime were continually on the rise. When my dad purchased and remodeled our home in the late seventies (which was on a main street in a business district), he removed all the windows from the first floor. This was to prevent an intruder from gaining accessing to our house through them. Now if your saying yikes, that’s right. That is living in fear.

The thing about fear is that can cripple us when we let it control us. Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion induced by a perceived threat.  In life, we all face fears from time to time.  There are many levels of fear that range from mild to severe. Some common types of fear are darkness, spiders, heights and most commonly, public speaking. Some severe fears can cause people to be afraid to leave their homes or even cause extreme behaviors such as hoarding. Fear has the capability to immobilize people and that’s just what the enemy of our souls wants.

The thing that has helped me to overcome fear in my life, is faith in the love of Christ. I am not claiming that I never experience fear, but that I control my fear and don’t let it control me. I believe a certain amount of fear is healthy. In Proverbs 9:10 is says . . . Fear of the LORD is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. When we rightfully begin to understand who God is, we gain a healthy fear of Him. He then gives the power to overcome wrongful debilitating fears with sound judgement.

The term “Fear Not” is repeatedly used in the bible. In Genesis, when sin entered the world, fear entered the picture. When Adam and Eve sinned, they hid because of their nakedness and they were afraid. Up until that time, they experienced perfect fellowship with God and there was no fear. Understanding fear is a product of the fall of man helps us to understand that fear is not of God.  God is love and when we begin to experience and grow in His love, He helps us to overcome debilitating and unhealthy fears.

1 John 4:18 says it like this . . . And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced His perfect love.

When it says that perfect love casts out fear, it is meaning that the love of Christ can help us to replace fear with faith. Jesus died to set us free from debilitating fear. The God of the Bible is always who He says he is and will always do what He says He will do.  He gives us his Word on that! This gives us confidence in trusting Him and the necessary faith needed to put fear in its rightful place. Fear of God is not fear of punishment, but fear that leads to obedience because of love.

I liken it to a parent child relationship. When my kids were little, I would spank them if they did not obey. I didn’t spank them to be mean, but to keep them from harm. I spanked them because they I could not reason with them. Fear drove their obedience. Now as they’re older, they obey not because they are fearful (because I can no longer put them over my knee to spank them), but rather because they love me and know I want what is best for them. Their love drives their obedience and it is the same in our relationship with God.

When we cling to the promises of God’s word, they can help us to overcome fear. They help us to understand that God is always with us and that He is there to help us as we call upon Him. Isaiah 41:10 says . . . So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. God’s got us in the palm of His hand. He is the one that helps us to face our fears with faith.  When we give our fears to God, He in turn gives us His perfect peace which flies in the face of fear. Face fear with faith and God won’t let you down.

Lord give us the faith of Peter to keep our eyes on you and face our fears.  Give us the heart of David to face the Goliath’s in our lives. Give us the obedience of Noah to trust and obey and the wisdom of Solomon to know what is good and right. Thank you for these and the many examples of those who have gone before us and demonstrated faith. Thank you for the perfect example of your son Jesus and for your perfect Love which drives away fear. Thank you for sending Jesus to die for our sin, help us to live for you. To you be the glory both now and forever. AMEN

2 Corinthians 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Proverbs 29:25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.

Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Digging for Treasure


digging

My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:1-6 (NLT)

Yesterday I was able to spend some time on the beach with my youngest daughter looking for agates. Agate hunting is one of my favorite beach pastimes because I find it to be such a relaxing and rewarding experience. It’s like a mini-vacation and a treasure hunt all wrapped up in one activity. Ok, maybe that’s a little overdoing it, but it is a fun pastime none the less.

So there I was lying there on the beach, listening to the crashing of ocean waves and digging through masses of little rocks when I thought of how I always find it much easier to spot agates when it’s sunny outside. Agates have a translucency to them which makes them much easier to see when the rays of sun are shining on them. Unfortunately yesterday there was no sun, so I lay there digging and digging, trying to detect some of the little treasures buried there. While doing this I was reminded of a parallel I find in agate hunting which can be likened to that of digging into Gods Word.

How many of us when we read God’s Word are actually looking at it as if a treasure hunt? If not, I believe we need to be. Just as agates when held up to the light have a transparency to them, that’s how the Holy Spirit helps us by illuminating God’s Word to us and helping us to see things the way God sees them.We need to pray and ask the Holy Spirit to give us a hunger and thirst for the Word and that by reading it, God would help reveal to us all the treasures He has for us in it.

God’s Word helps us to understand who God is and who we are as his beloved children. It is exploding with God’s promises that are just for you. It’s a wealth of treasures that help you to navigate the way in this life and to help you to experience the life and presence of God working in and through you.

The bible says in Hebrews 4:12 . . .The Word of God is alive and active (it’s God’s living Word and it’s waiting to speak to us). It goes on to say . . . It’s sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. God’s Word has the precision and cutting of a sword to dig deep within us and help expose even the thoughts and intentions of our hearts (now that’s powerful).

God doesn’t want us to merely survive this life, but he wants us to enjoy abundant life living in relationship with Him. We do this by trusting him as our Lord and Savior then to walking in relationship with Him and all that he has for us! In Jeremiah 29:13 it says . . . You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. God wants us to be continually seeking his face and we do this by setting our heart on knowing Him and his Word and by making him the first love of our lives.  When we do this, we will find the treasure that our thirsty hearts long for!

 

Renewal


renewalOver the past weekend, my family and I along with some friends watched the Superbowl. I’m not much of a football fan but anytime I can get together with friends for food and fun (whatever the cause) scores a touchdown in my book.

Football can be fun and entertaining to watch, but during the Superbowl alot of hype goes to the commercials and half time show as well. Now in the past, I’ve really been quite appalled by some of the stuff that has gone down during these so-called times of “entertainment” that is so highly viewed by the masses. Most of the time it’s because I’m troubled by what Hollywood tries to push-off on our society as acceptable social norms. Since this was a family viewing event at our house, I’m thankful that this years half time show was at least decent and somewhat entertaining. I wish I could have said the same for some of the commercials. 

We who are believers in Christ are to be in the world, but not of it. The question is, “How do we do that in a world that blatantly shoves stuff in our face that is directly opposed to our core beliefs and values?  First of all we definitely have a choice of what we expose our hearts and minds to. But the second part of that is we have a choice of what we do with it. Romans 12:2 says . . . Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

When we spend time with God and let His Word wash and renew our minds it slowly begins to transform us. We become alive in Christ because we begin to walk in the understanding of who God truly is and what He wants from us. The bible states that the mind that is governed by the flesh (the ways of the world) is death, but the mind governed by the spirit brings life and peace (Romans 8:6). Whatever we allow to dominate our thoughts and minds will become the driving force of our lives.

Being committed to Christ and walking in His ways should not make us self-righteous prudes.  This is what happens when we know the Word but do not let it transform the way we live. Colossians 3 tells us to put to death the things of our earthly nature and instead to put on the new self that is being renewed in the knowledge and image of its creator.  This requires action on our part of putting away our old self-centered, self-serving ways and then exchange them for God’s ways.

Our knowledge of Christ and love for God should compel and move us to action and help us to see things the way that God sees them. The Spirit of Christ living and working in our hearts and lives should motivate us to love others with Christ’s pure love and should give us a compassion for the broken and hurting all around us. 

Some years ago my husband and I purchased a dining room table. Unfortunately after a few short years the finish had completely worn off the table. It was beginning to look pretty worn and marred from endless usage by our young family of six. One day my husband decided to sand and strip the table and then to refinish it. When it was completely done, I could hardly believe it was the same table. Actually, he had put a much better finish on the table that what it had originally come with, and today many years later the finish on the table is still relatively gorgeous.

This scenario reminds me of what God does with our lives when we come surrendered to Him.  He begins HIS work of restoration in our hearts and minds.  It’s a process of stripping off the old and then putting on the new. This happens in our daily walk with him as we renew our minds with the Word of God and walk in obedience to him. God takes the blemishes, marks and scars of our lives and is reworking them to give us a glorious new finish.