Absorb God’s Word – Don’t Worry About Overflowing

Pitchfork Pots Flowing Over

Pitchfork Pots Over Flowing

Water absorbent crystals perform as the name implies: they absorb water. And they can absorb an amazing amount of water. When placed in pots with plants they slowly release the absorbed water and keep the plants hydrated over a longer period of time. Just when they need it.

Pitchfork Pot Overflowing

Pitchfork Pot Overflowing

I have used the crystals for several years but with these pots I apparently was thinking about something else and misjudged the number of crystals needed. As you see, after a 2 inch rain, the crystals expanded many times larger than their “dry weight”. They erupted over the side and took some of the potting soil with them to the ground. I’ll have to re-pot the moss roses and redistribute most of the crystals to other pots.

The sight of the engorged crystals and the thought of letting out the water as needed made me think of God’s Word – in a good way, of course. We need to absorb His Word daily – storing it for just when we need it. We don’t have to worry about taking too much in – that can never happen. Plus, if it overflows or even erupts from us, that’s all part of God’s plan to spread it around.

 Jesus said: A sower went out to sow his seed…Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.” Luke 8:5, 8:11 ESV

We aren’t all called to be preachers, but we are all called to be sowers of the Word. Fill your seed bag to overflowing so there is an abundance to sow.

What Ingredients Create Our Spiritual Mulch?

Flower Bed Before Mulch

Flower Bed Before Mulch

The flower beds were a mess. Some still are since it’s a work in progress. I didn’t add any mulch in the fall, so the weeds were free to multiply and the warm winter helped them along.

But, thankfully, I’ve had some time and been able to work on the beds. Here’s what they’re starting to look like.

Flower Bed with Pine Straw Mulch

Flower Bed with Pine Straw Mulch

My favorite mulch (and the favorite of many folks around here in south Georgia) is pine straw. It’s abundant and relatively inexpensive. I like the way it looks, too – makes things nice and neat.

But, although it does look good, the main purposes of the mulch aren’t aesthetic. Mulch is used to stop the weeds from growing – hopefully to keep the ground dark enough that the weed seeds don’t even sprout. And, it’s used to retain the moisture when the summer gets hot and dry.

In my pondering as I put out the pine straw, I wondered if there was such a thing as spiritual mulch. We certainly need something to keep the spiritual weeds from growing – those thoughts or actions that begin siphoning off our nourishment that God provides. Those things that begin to shade our heart and mind from God’s presence.

We also need ways to keep the living water around us during times of spiritual drought.

I decided that prayer and Bible study are two necessary components of spiritual mulch. Consistent prayer (with the right attitude) keeps us close to God. Bible study continually reminds us who God is, who we are in relation to Him, and what He has done for us.

Those ingredients will keep the spiritual weeds from growing (and having worked hard at getting rid of weeds in the flower bed, I can say it’s much easier to keep them from growing than to remove them later) and they will keep the living water flowing from Jesus.

Pray without ceasing” 1 Thessalonians 5:17 ESV

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.” John 7:37 ESV

Bible Study – Cherish the Knowns, Work on the Unknowns

Three unknowns

Three unknowns

Since I’ve started a bit of “birding” in the backyard, I’m discovering just how many unknowns I have. Here are three unknowns that decided to get a bite to eat at the same time. I thought I was fairly knowledgeable from my Boy Scout days (which I admit was quite a while ago), but, I’ve gone beyond my knowledge level of the cardinals, mockingbirds, and bluebirds – and realized my ignorance.

When I say “gone beyond”, though, I don’t mean I’ve forgotten them. I have learned that we have the Northern Cardinals, Northern Mockingbirds, and Eastern Bluebirds. But, whether I knew the more specific name or not, the bright red of the male cardinals will always make them a favorite of mine. The songs of the mockingbirds are beautiful, and the blue of the bluebirds is amazing.

It reminded me of Bible Study. As we’ve heard and read the Bible through the years, we’ve probably had more exposure to the well known, and appropriately well loved, verses and passages – “For God so loved the world..”, “The Lord is my Shepherd…”, the Christmas and Easter stories, etc. But, it’s also probable that even though they are familiar, the Holy Spirit has given us additional insight, understanding, and application of these passages at different times. By continuing to study and listen, we learn more about what we thought we knew completely.

And, if we expand what we read and hear to include the whole Bible, we learn more about our glorious God. Things we may have had in the back of our mind become clearer because there is wisdom throughout the entire Bible.

Thanks to help from some of you, I’ve learned of the Pine Siskin and the Chipping Sparrow, and now can enjoy my knowledge of them also. But, the red of the male cardinal will always be a favorite and the blue of the bluebird will always be amazing. As we search the Scriptures, we will discover more verses that will become cherished – but we will always rejoice and be comforted and amazed that “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16 NKJV

Blessings from God – A Blank Canvas

Blank Canvas

God has blessed me with a blank canvas (well, blank in most respects) in part of the area where we cut some planted pines. I’ve started with a few small trees and bushes but still have more room than I’ll ever be able to fill. Thoughts of a  bunch of knockout roses, and a native plant area, and grape vines, etc., etc.

Our Lord blesses us with other blank canvasses. Each day may not be totally blank (because of things required) but we can change what we’re doing or not doing, and paint a new picture that clearly shows our love of Christ. We can smile a bit more and generously give out encouragement and compassion.

But, the greatest blank canvas came with our salvation. The blood of Christ washed away all our sins – past, present and future. And, that blank canvas shines out God’s mercy and grace, because we know we aren’t sinless on our own.

However, our salvation doesn’t give us a canvas that is blank of responsibilities. We’re told in the Bible to keep a “short account” – meaning quickly acknowledging our sins, asking forgiveness, and turning away from them. We work to keep that canvas as blank as possible, while resting in the assurance that it’s Christ sinlessness that overcomes our sinfulness.

I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah 43:25 ESV

Pick Christ’s Heart

English: Fruit on tree; from the Philippines

Fruit on tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We pick a person’s brain to gather knowledge, like picking fruit from a tree or using a pick axe to dig deeper for hidden gold nuggets. It’s helpful to learn others’ thoughts and ideas because their experiences have been different than ours. Their knowledge and perspective may help us better understand a problem or answer a question we’re wrestling with. Picking a person’s brain allows us to discover what they know and it may give a bit of insight into who they are, but to really know them we must pick their heart.

Picking a person’s heart goes beyond gathering facts. It means when they’re speaking we watch their expressions for signs of joy, sadness or pain. We listen to the tone of their voice to notice if it trembles from fear, is clear and direct from focus on a deeply held belief, or bubbles with excitement. We ask questions because we care about the answers. We want to understand their concerns and joys, and share in them. We watch and listen closely to learn what makes them feel loved and to become aware of how they show their love for us.

Relationships grow strong when we reach that level – with our wives or husbands, our family, our Christian brothers and sisters, and others in our life.

In Philippians 3:10 (NIV), the Apostle Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ.” If we have the same desire, we will spend time picking Christ’s heart. We do that by studying the Bible. As we go deeper, more of our questions will be answered and we will better understand Him. We will know that Jesus has clearly shown His love for us by dying on the cross and read that He has told us how to show our love for Him:

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.‘” Matthew 25:37-40 ESV

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15 ESV

These two passages point out that we have another responsibility in the process. Once we have picked someone’s heart, we must act on what we have learned for it to truly matter.

The Bible as a Change Agent

Bible Study 2

Bible Study 2 (Photo credit: DrGBB)

This is my contribution to the ChristianWriters.com blog chain for September. Our theme for the month is “change”. Check out others on the respective days shown in the right hand column.

Several years ago when our Church was without a Pastor, I had the opportunity (by necessity) to do some lay-speaking. I entitled one message “The Bible as a Change Agent”. When thinking about this month’s theme, it came to mind, so here’s the blog-length gist of that message.

11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,

12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 NKJV

The grace of God that brings salvation is alive in Jesus Christ, our Lord. That salvation is the first and most important change in a believer’s life. It occurs when a non-believer is born again by receiving the Holy Spirit and a saving faith in Jesus Christ, and is converted.

However, salvation isn’t the final change that should happen in us. In verse 12, we move into everyday life in “the present age”. First, it says we are taught. How are we taught? God has chosen the working of the Holy Spirit through His Word as the principle means we learn by.

What are we taught? The remainder of verse 12 describes the continual change that should be happening within us and in the way we live. It’s talking about the progressive changes that should be happening as we become more obedient to God’s Word, and, as we better understand what is required of us through God’s Word.

Verse 13 speaks of some of our motivation to want to change. We are to look to the return of our Lord and rejoice in the fact that we will be with Him in Heaven.

Verse 14 then speaks of Christ’s motivation and purpose for changing us. He is purifying us into His own special people (the KJV says “peculiar people”, which means different from the world around us). And, He desires that so much that He gave Himself for us.

As God’s children, we have been changed when we were reborn with the Holy Spirit. We were made new creations. And, as we move forward in our Christian walk, we are called to continue to change – as the verse in Titus says – to be purified and be a special/peculiar people. And, the Word of God, thru the working of the Holy Spirit, is the primary instrument that God uses in bringing about that change.

I’d like to challenge us that each time we come into the sanctuary our prayer would be like Paul’s on the road to Damascus – “Lord what would you have me to do?” and also “Lord what would you have me to learn?” – and pray that when we go back out the doors, we would walk out a changed person.

A challenge that every time we go into a Bible Study class that we would ask the same thing of God and desire to walk out of that class a changed person. A challenge that every time we open our Bible – we would ask the same thing of God and desire that when we close it, we would be a changed person.

But, let’s always focus on our reason for that – it’s not to be a “better” person, although that will result from this. Our motivation is that Jesus has given Himself for us – so that we are changed and can stand before God without condemnation, and with the Holy Spirit’s power and guidance, and God’s Holy Word we can continue to change in this present age, to become more like our Lord Jesus every day.

Celebrate Words – Especially God’s

English: Holy bible, St Mary's Church Located ...

Holy Bible (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since the July theme for the ChristianWriters.com blog chain is “celebrate”, it’s appropriate that we celebrate words. While there are some “word” celebrations in place, such as the Celebrating Words Festival in Los Angeles, National Writing Day and I Love to Write Day, this will be a smaller scale of just a few minutes.

Words are fun to play with. Such as seeing a sign that says “Giant Tire Sale” and wondering just how big the tires are. Or, thinking of movie titles like “The Sum of All Fears” and imagining what the plot would be for “The Fear of All Sums”?

My favorite personal example came one day at a produce distribution plant. There were rows and rows of boxes stacked to the ceiling. A label on the side of each box indicated its contents. Most were straightforward (tomatoes, peppers, bananas, etc.), however, one box stood out. It’s label read simply: “Squash, Do Not Crush”. I imagine someone was just having fun with words, and it may even be a standard produce plant gag, but, it sure stayed with me. I suppose I celebrate words each time I think of it.

As Christians, our celebration of words must include God’s Word. There are passages that can be fun (remember short Zaccheus climbing up a tree so he could see Jesus (Luke 19), or Balaam’s donkey talking to him (Numbers 22:28)). But, in our celebration, we can move far beyond fun, and we can consider the joy, thankfulness and humility that Scripture brings us.

One of my favorite verses comes when Nehemiah is encouraging the people in Jerusalem to rebuild the wall around the city. He in effect told them “Let me tell you the good things God has done to bring me to this point” – and it worked – their response was “Let us rise up and build!”.

Let’s take that verse and celebrate what God has done for us.

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.” Nehemiah 2:18

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Psalms 23:1

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

But Noah (and we) found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” Genesis 6:8

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

 “And she shall bring forth a Son and thou shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

“.. so He was their Savior.  In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in his pity He redeemed them.” Isaiah 63:8-9

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes..” Romans 1:16

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

“Then I told them of the hand of my God which was good upon me.”

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalms 23:6

Those are the true Words we celebrate!

(Read additional blogs this month on the days listed on the right)