Hidden Treasures

The Bible is much more than a book of religion.

Magnolias

 I spent the week before my daughter’s June wedding running last-minute trips to the caterer, florist, tuxedo shop, and the church about forty miles away.

As happy as I was that Patsy was marrying a good Christian young man, I felt laden with responsibilities as I watched my budget dwindle.

So many details, so many bills, and so little time. My son Jack was away at college, but he said he would be there to walk his younger sister down the aisle, taking the place of his dad who had died a few years before. He teased Patsy, saying he’d wanted to give her away since she was about three years old.

To save money, I gathered blossoms from several friends who had large magnolia trees. Their luscious, creamy-white blooms and slick green eaves
would make beautiful arrangements against the rich dark wood inside the church.

After the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding, we banked the podium area and choir loft with magnolias. As we left just before midnight, I
felt tired but satisfied this would be the best wedding any bride had ever had! The music, the ceremony, the reception  and especially the flowers  would be remembered for years.

The big day arrived –  the busiest day of my life – and while her bridesmaids helped Patsy to dress, her fiancé  walked into the sanctuary with me  to do a final check. When we opened the door and felt a rush of hot air, I almost fainted; and then I saw them – all the beautiful white flowers were black.
Funeral black. An electrical storm during the night had knocked out the air conditioning system, and on that hot summer day, the flowers had wilted and died.

I panicked, knowing I didn’t have time to drive back to our hometown, gather more flowers, and return in time for the wedding. Tim turned to me. ‘Edna, can you get more flowers? I’ll throw away these dead ones and put fresh flowers in these arrangements.’

 I mumbled, ‘Sure,’ as he be-bopped down the hall to put on his cuff links.

 Alone in the large sanctuary, I looked up at the dark wooden beams in the arched ceiling. ‘Lord,’ I prayed, ‘please help me. I don’t know anyone in
this town. Help me find someone willing to give me flowers – in a hurry!’

 I scurried out praying for four things: the blessing of white magnolias,
courage to find them in an unfamiliar yard, safety from any dog that may bite my leg, and a nice person who would not get out a shotgun when I asked to cut his tree to shreds.

 As I left the church, I saw magnolia trees in the distance. I approached a house. No dog in sight. I knocked on the door and an older man answered. So far so good. No shotgun. When I stated my plea the man beamed, ‘I’d be happy to!’ He climbed a stepladder and cut large boughs and
handed them down to me. Minutes later, as I lifted the last armload into my car trunk, I said, ‘Sir, you’ve made the mother of a bride happy today.’

No, Ma’am,’ he said. ‘You don’t understand what’s happening here.

‘What?’ I asked. You see, my wife of sixty-seven years died on Monday. On Tuesday I received friends at the funeral home, and on Wednesday . . . He paused. I saw tears welling up in his eyes. ‘On Wednesday I
buried her.’  He looked away. ‘On Thursday most of my out-of-town relatives went back home, and on Friday – yesterday – my children left.’

I nodded. ‘This morning,’ he continued, ‘I was sitting in my den crying out loud. I miss her so much. For the last sixteen years, as her health got worse, she needed me. But now nobody needs me. This morning I
cried, ‘Who needs an eighty-six-year-old wore-out man? Nobody!’ I began to cry louder. ‘Nobody needs me!’

About that time, you knocked, and said, ‘Sir, I need you.’ I stood with my mouth open. He asked, ‘Are you an angel? The way the light shone
around your head into my dark living room…’ I assured him I was no angel.

He smiled. ‘Do you know what I was thinking when I handed you those magnolias?’

‘No.’ I decided I’m needed. My flowers are needed. Why, I might have a flower ministry! I could give them to everyone! Some caskets at the funeral home have no flowers. People need flowers at times like that and I have lots of them. They’re all over the backyard! I can give them to hospitals, churches – all sorts of places. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to serve the Lord until the day He calls me home!’

I drove back to the church, filled with wonder. On Patsy’s wedding day, if anyone had asked me to encourage someone who was hurting, I would have said, ‘Forget it! It’s my only daughter’s wedding, for goodness’ sake! There is no way I can minister to anyone today.’ But God found a way. Through dead flowers. ‘

Life is not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.’ If you have missed knowing me, you have missed nothing. If you have missed some of my emails, you may have missed a laugh. But, if you have missed knowing my LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST you have missed everything in the world.  May God’s blessings be upon you.

 

-copied from an anonymous email forward

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 6, 2010 Posted by | Encouragment | Comments Off on Magnolias

Feeling sorry for yourself?

 

You may  have heard of this young man. His story is amazing!  

 

The first ones show him speaking about his daily struggles with life.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DxlJWJ_WfA

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo_24_qTNac&feature=related

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQPmY4nIjVE&feature=related

 

The next group show his actual back story. His birth. His parents’ reactions. His anger with God. His conversion. His daily faith walk.

 

http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/vod/KW71v1_WS

 

http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/vod/KW71INTERNET_1_WS

 

http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/vod/KW71INTERNET_2_WS

 

http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/vod/KW71INTERNET_3_WS

 

http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/vod/KW71INTERNET_4_WS

 

 

Finally I’ll include a biography:

 

 

Nicholas James Vujicic (December 1982) is a preacher, a motivational speaker and the Director of Life Without Limbs, a non-profit Christian organization. He regularly gives speeches across subject of disability and hope.

Early life

The first-born child of a Serbian family[2], Nick Vujicic was born in Melbourne, Australia with the rare Tetra-amelia disorder: limbless, missing both arms at shoulder level, and legless but with two small feet, one of which has two toes. Initially, his parents were devastated. Vujicic was otherwise healthy.

Growing up

His life was filled with difficulties and hardships. One was being prohibited by Victoria state law from attending a mainstream school because of his physical disability, even though he was not mentally impaired. During his schooling, the laws were changed, and Vujicic was one of the first disabled students to be integrated into a mainstream school.[3] He learned to write using the two toes on his left foot, and a special device that slid onto his big toe which he uses to grip. He also learned to use a computer and type using the “heel and toe” method (as demonstrated in his speeches), throw tennis balls, play drum pedals, comb his hair, brush his teeth, answer the phone, shave and get himself a glass of water (also demonstrated in speeches).

Epiphany

Being bullied at his school, Vujicic grew extremely depressed, and by the age of 8, started contemplating suicide. After begging God to grow arms and legs, Nick eventually began to realize that his accomplishments were inspirational to many, and began to thank God for being alive. [4] A key turning point in his life was when his mother showed him a newspaper article about a man dealing with a severe disability. This led him to realize he wasn’t the only one with major struggles.[5] When he was seventeen, he started to give talks at his prayer group,[6] and eventually started his non-profit organization, Life Without Limbs.

Career

Nick graduated from college at the age of 21 with a double major in Accounting and Financial Planning. He began his travels as a motivational speaker, focusing on the topics that today’s teenagers face. He also speaks in the corporate sector, although his aim is to become an international inspirational speaker, in both Christian and non-Christian venues. He regularly travels internationally to speak to Christian congregations, schools, and corporate meetings. He has spoken to over two million people so far, in twelve countries on four continents (Africa, Asia, Australia, and North America).[7]

By the age of 25, Nick hoped to become financially independent. He wishes to promote his words through television shows such as the The Oprah Winfrey Show, as well as by writing books. His first book, planned for completion by the end of 2009, is to be called No Arms, No Legs, No Worries!.[1]

His motivational DVD, Life’s Greater Purpose, is available on the Life Without Limbs website.[8]

 

Most of the DVD was filmed in 2005, featuring a brief documentary about his home life, and how he does regular things without limbs. The second part of the DVD was filmed at his local church in Brisbane, and was one of his first professional motivational speeches. His motivational speeches can be seen on the Premiere Speakers Bureau Website. Vujicic currently lives in California.

Vujicic’s first worldwide television interview, featured on 20/20 (ABC) with Bob Cummings was aired on 28 March 2008.

 

He appeared in the short film “The Butterfly Circus” which won the Doorpost Film Project’s top prize of 2009,[9] and the Best Short Film award at the Method Fest Film Festival, where Vujicic was also awarded Best Actor in a short film.

 

 

May 11, 2010 Posted by | Encouragment | Comments Off on Feeling sorry for yourself?

SHAY DAY

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its

dedicated staff, he offered a question:

‘When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection.

Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.

Where is the natural order of things in my son?’

The audience was stilled by the query.

The father continued. ‘I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.’

Then he told the following story:

Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, ‘Do you think they’ll let me play?’ I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, ‘We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.’

Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but was still behind by three.

In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again.

Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the

plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.

The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.

The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.

As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over.

The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman.

Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman’s head, out of reach of all team mates.

Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, ‘Shay, run to first!

Run to first!’

Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base.

He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, ‘Run to second, run to second!’

Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.

B y the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball . the smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team.

He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher’s intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman’s head.

Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, ‘Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay’

Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, ‘Run to third!

Shay, run to third!’

As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, ‘Shay, run home! Run home!’

Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team

‘That day’, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, ‘the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world’.

Shay didn’t make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

 
May your day, be a Shay Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

March 20, 2010 Posted by | Encouragment | Comments Off on SHAY DAY

A Cab Ride

I walked to the door and knocked. ‘Just a minute’, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.

 

After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie.

By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.

There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

‘Would you carry my bag out to the car?’ she asked.. I took the suit case to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. ‘It’s nothing’, I told her. ‘I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated’.

‘Oh, you’re such a good boy’, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, and then asked, ‘Could you drive through downtown?’

‘It’s not the shortest way,’ I answered quickly.

‘Oh, I don’t mind,’ she said. ‘I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice’.

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. ‘I don’t have any family left,’ she continued. ‘The doctor says I don’t have very long.’ I quietly reached over and shut off the meter..

‘What route would you like me to take?’ I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me thebuilding where she had once worked as an elevator operator.

We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.

Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, ‘I’m tired. Let’s go now’

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.

Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

‘How much do I owe you?’ she asked, reaching into her purse.

‘Nothing,’ I said

‘You have to make a living,’ she answered.

‘There are other passengers,’ I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.

‘You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,’ she said.

‘Thank you.’

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his
shift?

What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.

We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

author unknown

December 1, 2008 Posted by | Encouragment | Comments Off on A Cab Ride

Encouragment

As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant. It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then putting a big “F” at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s past records and she put Teddy’s off until last. However, when she reviewed his record, she was in for a surprise. Teddy’s first grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners. He is a joy to be around.”

His second grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.”

His third grade teacher wrote, “His mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps are not taken.”

Teddy’s fourth grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class.”

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when the students brought her Christmas present, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy’s. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy brown paper that he got from a grocery bag.

Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one quarter full of perfume. But she stifled the children’s laughter when she explained how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist.

Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day jut long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smell just like my Mom used to. After the children left, she cried for at least an hour. On that day she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead she began to teach children.

Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her “teacher’s pets.”

A year later, she found a note under her door from Teddy, telling her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another one from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in his life.

Four years after that, she received another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter. This explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he had decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that Spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom. Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore the bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson’s ear, “Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference.”

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, “Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn’t know how to teach you until I met you!”

Legend has it that Teddy Stoddard is the doctor at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing. Though fiction, the story teaches a powerful lesson!

June 10, 2006 Posted by | Encouragment | Comments Off on Encouragment

God Is Love

GOD IS LOVE! Such simple, well known words and yet how difficult for us to grasp! None of us can totally comprehend God’s love. If we could only begin to understand a little of it, what a difference it would make in our relationship with Him and with others. What peace and joy and comfort it would bring to our troubled hearts!

Because God is infinite; His love is infinite, endless, immeasurable and it has no boundaries.

Because God is everlasting, His love is everlasting. It had no beginning and it has no end. “The Lord hath appeared of old unto me saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” Jeremiah 31:3

Because God is omnipotent, His love is powerful enough to accomplish whatever is best for me. Read Romans 8:28-39 and as you read it, learn that God takes all the circumstances of your life and mixes them together for your good. Nothing is too good for God to give to His child and no power can destroy His love for us. If I delight myself in Him, He promises to give me the desires of my heart. Psalm 37:4

Because God is omniscient (all-knowing), He sees the end from the beginning and knows what is best for me. God is pleased when I trust Him with plans for my future. Jeremiah 29:11 Isaiah 55:8-9

Because God is holy, His love is holy and pure. Isaiah 6:1-8 Revelation 4  God, who is omnipotent (all-powerful) could be an ogre or a tyrant if His love were not holy. Because of His holiness and purity, I need not fear any harm from Him; only good.

Because God is omnipresent, His love is with me wherever I am and regardless of my situation. He is able to show His love to me. Psalm 139:1-18

Because God is immutable, His love is unchanging. He is not fickle. He does not with-hold His love from us as we do from others when we think it is undeserved.

Because I am human and have my physical and emotional weaknesses, I cannot always feel His love; but He is still with me, working out good in my life. Job 23:8-10

God’s love is practical. It is more than mere words. God’s love is self-giving and is shown to me in His Son, Jesus, who died to pay the penalty for my sins. John 3:16 Romans 5:8 Only as I trust Jesus and know Him as my Saviour and Lord, can I ever know His love for me. None of us deserve God’s love. We can never earn it. It is totally a free gift of His grace and He lavishes it on His children.

Those who spurn that love will one day be forced to face His wrath. John 3:36; 5:24 Revelation 6:12-17

If we are yielded Christians, living under the control of His Holy Spirit, Christ fills us with His love and it spills over to others. I John 4:19; 2:5; John 14:15; 15:12-14

June 6, 2006 Posted by | Encouragment | Comments Off on God Is Love

Gardens and Crosses

"Now in the place where Jesus was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid."

Jesus was crucified on a skull shaped hill just outside of Jerusalem. This bone-covered, hill, known in different languages as Calvary or Golgotha, was a place of cruel executions. a place of ugliness, loneliness, cruelty, torture, excruciating pain and death.

Very near that hill was a garden. What an interesting contrast! The hill speaks of suffering and death. The garden speaks of quiet peacefulness, life and beauty.

Joseph, of the village of Arimathea, was a wealthy man and a member of the ruling Jewish Sanhedrin. He was a secret follower of Christ. He owned the garden and had dug a tomb in the rock and had prepared a sepulchre for his own death someday.

Nicodemus was the Pharisee of John 3 who came to Jesus one night two or three years earlier earnestly seeking to know Christ. Evidently he received Christ as his Messiah and became a secret follower for several years.

Both of these men came together to take down the dead body of Jesus and bury it in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb. Nicodemus brought 100 pounds of spices for the burial. Centuries before as slaves in Egypt, the Israelites had learned the art of embalming.

The account of Jesus' burial is found in the four Gospels: Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56 and John 19:39-42. From these four Gospels we have this story.
A synthesized account of Jesus' burial

As the evening of the Passover Sabbath was drawing near; Joseph of Arimathea, a good man and a wealth man, a Counsellor and a member of the Sanhedrin who had followed Jesus secretly for some time; boldly and courageously approached Pilate for permission to take Jesus' body down from the cross and bury it.

Pilate, after confirming with the Roman centurion that Jesus was indeed dead, gave permission to Joseph.

Nicodemus, the Pharisee who had come to Jesus one night several years earlier to discuss spiritual matters, now joined Joseph in helping him with the burial by bringing one hundred pounds of embalming spices. Together they took the body to Joseph's tomb and wrapped the corpse with the embalming spices in yards of linen and laid it in the sepulchre.

Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Joses, also joined Joseph and Nicodemus in the tomb and observed how the body of Jesus was laid out in the tomb. Then they all exited and rolled a great stone against the mouth of the tomb and left the garden.

The strange contrast
Would you consider with me the strange contrast of a garden and an execution site being so close together? Calvary speaks of the dark, discouraging, sad, heart-breaking moments of our life. The Garden speaks of peace and quiet fellowship with God. Note both experiences often come close together. The garden was near the cross. Dear reader, the next time you are called upon to bear a cross of suffering and heart-break and disappointment for Jesus' sake, remember; there is a garden of fellowship with Christ near by.

The fellowship that Adam and Eve in their unfallen state enjoyed with Jesus each day in the Garden of Eden, was lost when they sinned against God. They lost the fellowship and died spiritually and years later died physically. The result is that the entire human race has followed them in sin and death and loss of fellowship with God. Your fellowship with God can be restored through faith in Christ who died to pay the penalty for our sins.
In that Garden of Fellowship you will find the following blessings.

The blessing of life
There is only one kind of life and that is God's eternal life. It begins the moment you put your trust in Christ as Saviour and continues on throughout eternity. There is no other life; only existence. This life comes through Jesus alone. John 14:6 It is an abundant life; more than you could ever dream or ask for. John 10:10 You find this life by identifying yourself with Christ who suffered and died and rose again for your sins. Matthew 10:39

The blessing of intimacy with God
In Isaiah 45:3 the prophet Isaiah speaks of the spiritual treasures that are found only in the dark and distressing times of life. Philippians 3:10 and I Peter 1:3-8 speak of the intimacy with Christ and the spiritual power we experience as we enter the fellowship of His sufferings.

The blessing of beautification
In the garden of fellowship with Christ, He is glorified in us. John 17:5-10 The more time we spend with Him in His Word, the more we become like Him. II Corinthians 3:18 Psalms 149:4-5 Psalms 90:14-17

The blessing of peace
If we are living in fellowship with Christ, when times of fear and suffering come our way, we can have His perfect peace as we keep our mind focused on Christ. Isaiah 26:3 Through His indwelling Holy Spirit, He gives us His peace. John 14:27 16:33

The blessing of joy
In the midst of sorrow and loss, He fills our heart with His joy. John 15:11 I John 4:1

The blessing of growth
Some of the greatest spiritual growth and sanctification, (the process of becoming like Jesus) comes in the midst of suffering. I Peter 5:10 We are crowded closer to Christ. The spiritual growth that takes place may be imperceptible to us, but others can see it and are blessed by the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in our lives.

Finally, the blessing of suffering often opens new doors of service for Christ.
As in a garden, new and fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers are constantly being produced; so in the garden of fellowship with Christ, He often closes one door and opens another new and fresh opportunity for service. But don't chide and fret and moan for new opportunities to come your way. Learn to bloom and produce fruit in the place where He planted you. When you have finished your work there, He will move you on to new opportunities, if you have been faithful

Next time you pass through a time of testing and sorrow, remember there is a garden close by, a garden where you can enjoy sweet intimacy and fellowship with Christ.

June 6, 2006 Posted by | Encouragment | Comments Off on Gardens and Crosses

Stress

A lecturer, when explaining stress management to an audience, raised a glass of water and asked, "How heavy is this glass of water?"  Answers called out ranged from 20g to 500g. The lecturer replied, "The absolute weight doesn't matter.  It depends how long you try to hold it.  If  I  hold it for a minute, that's not a problem.  If I hold it for an hour, I'll have an ache in my right arm.  If I hold it for a day, you'll have to call an ambulance.  In each case it's the same weight,  but the longer I  hold it, the heavier it becomes." 

Are you living under stress?  I realize I don't know what you are going through.    And you don't know  what I'm going through, but guess what?  I'm not living under stress. Let me tell you why.

I don't hold that glass of water in my hand beyond my endurance. I've learned to put it down on the table before I am exhausted.  Here are some ideas for living a stress free life and avoiding burn out.

1. Commit yourself and your day to God. Ask for His help and for His blessing on your day.   Throughout the day as you come up against a seeming impossibility, just cry out to Him, "HELP!"  He is right there to give you wisdom to solve the problem and His strength to help you carry the load.  As I grow older God's promise in Isaiah 40:28-31 becomes more precious to me. It's one of my favorite. Read it, meditate on it and rejoice.  It is God's promise to YOU!

2. Stay ahead on your schedule.  It has always been my habit to stay ahead on my schedule. I would never make a good boss, because as my wife says, "I want things done yesterday."   I have known of pastors who begin working on their messages for Sunday on Saturday evening- less then fifteen hours before they are to preach.   I don't know how they stand that kind of pressure.  Perhaps they have no stress at all, but I doubt that I would want to sit under their ministry.   I am usually working on messages three to five weeks in advance.  Thank God for computers.  I can work on different messages throughout the week and can store them and go back to them day after day, changing, rearranging, adding and deleting- all without having to rip a sheet of paper out of my typewriter and starting all over again.  That's the way I did it for years.  It's so much simpler today.   The files in my computer sure beat the four door file cabinets, filled with manila folders and stacks of material. By Monday morning each week my message for the following Sunday is finished and almost ready to preach.  Oh, sometimes during the week I will make a few minor changes.  On a few occasions I have totally rearranged a sermon on Saturday evening, but that is rare. The point I make is that I do not allow anything on my schedule to give me stress.

You see, the thing that brings stress is not the assignment or the responsibility, but it  is procrastination and putting off doing what needs to be done. It's having a deadline fast approaching and not being ready for the event.  When you start an assignment early, weeks before it is due, there is no stress at all. Students, if your teacher gives you a term paper to write and it is due in one month or at the end of the semester, get started on it immediately and get it out of the way as quickly as possible. That way you avoid the stress of that unfinished assignment hanging over your head.  The longer you hold it unfinished, the heavier it gets.

3. Cast your burden on the Lord.  Stress is brought on by trying to carry out an assignment or responsibility that is almost more than you can bear. We're all called upon to bear our own burdens.  Galatians 6:5 Often multiple responsibilities coming together only add to the stress.  In such times, I simply lean and rest  on Jesus. He supports me and infuses me with His strength to meet the responsibilities.  Each night as I prepare for bed, I cast my burden on the Lord, close my eyes and go to sleep.  Next morning, after a good night's sleep, I pick up that burden again and do what I can to carry out the responsibility or complete the assignment.

4. Each morning I make a list of things I must do. I check my calendar and list what needs to be done that day.  Then I do what needs to be done and as I finish an assignment I take pleasure in checking it off. Each time I make that check mark, I am relieved of  some of the weight that would eventually cause stress.

Here are some of the passages of Scripture that I have learned to lean on in times of great pressure. This is just a sampling of God's promises scattered throughout the Bible.  Read them, memorize them and  draw on them when you find yourself under pressure. God will strengthen you, encourage you and keep you from burn-out. I am approaching 72.   By  His grace and strength, I'm still going strong in my pastorate and am enjoying  some of the best years of my life.   Will the burdens grow heavier in the years ahead?  I expect they will, but He has promised to sustain me and He will sustain you.

RESTING PILLS   Here's a sampling. Take as needed and meditate on them.  No chance of overdosing. 

Deuteronomy 33:27,  Joshua 1:1-9,   II Chronicles 20:15-22,   Job 19:25-27, 

Read the Psalms daily to keep your heart in tune with God.

Read Proverbs daily to keep from getting into stressful situations with others.

Isaiah 40:28-31,  41:10-20,   42:1-4,   43:1,  44:3  45:2-3,   46:3-4,   53:5-6,  54:1-17, 55:1-13,   58:3-14,   61:1-3,   

Jeremiah 1:4-10,  17:5-8,  18:1-4,  33:3     Lamentations 3:21-27

Matthew 6:25-34,  11:28-30   John 14:1-18,  14:27,  15:1-8,   16:24, 

Romans 5:1-5,    6:14,   8:22-39,  I Corinthians 15:50-58, 

II Corinthians 1:3-4,  2:14,  12:9   Philippians 4:6-7,   4:19

I Thessalonians 4:13-18    Hebrews 4:14-16    James 1:2-12,  5:13-16

I Peter 1:3-8    II Peter 1:2-11   3:8-15    I John 3:1-3    5:11-13

Revelation 21:1-4,  22:17

April 10, 2006 Posted by | Encouragment | Comments Off on Stress

Rest

 

To the sinner, sick of his sins and tired of trying to run from God; to the Christian weary, worn out and burned out, trying hard to live for Jesus and serve Him- and failing; Jesus invites, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden; and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."  Matthew 11:28-30.The key to salvation is resting in Jesus. The key to living the Christian life is resting in Jesus. The key to serving the Lord is resting in Jesus. 

BAD NEWS!

Sin is pleasurable. Sin is attractive. Sin is exciting.  Sin is fun.  No one, but God,  is going to convince us otherwise.  But we must understand that the Bible teaches that our sins infuriate God.  He must punish us with eternal damnation in Hell.   "The soul that sinneth, it shall die!" Ezekiel 18:4   "The wages of sin is death."  Romans 6:23   "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable,(perverts) and  murderers and whoremongers, (those guilty of illicit sex), and sorcerers,(fortune tellers) and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake of fire which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.  Revelation 21:8

 

The fact is that YOU are a sinner.   I am a sinner.  Everyone born into the human race is a sinner and we all deserve to die and go to hell.   This is the teaching of God's Word, the Bible. What can you and I do to make ourselves  presentable to God?  NOTHING!  We are helpless and hopeless to save ourselves.   That's the teaching of Ephesians 2:11-12

 

GOOD NEWS!!!

But thank God,  there is good news for sinners and only for sinners.  God can do nothing to help the self-righteous. But if God is speaking to you through His Word and has convinced you that you are a helpless, hopeless sinner headed for eternal damnation,  then God can intervene and save you. The Good News is that God Himself came down to earth in the person of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and  paid the penalty for your sins on the cross 2000 years ago.  Three days later He rose from the dead.  His death and resurrection provide His gracious Gift of Eternal Life for anyone who will receive Jesus and REST in His complete, final sacrifice for our sins.   Yes, salvation is as simple as RESTING in Jesus.  Will you quit struggling and  trying to impress God with your self righteousness?  He describes it as filthy, smelly rags..  Isaiah 64:6

 

Perhaps you had taken the step of salvation earlier and you have been struggling to try to live the Christian life­ and all your efforts have failed. Though Christ has saved you,  you still struggle with sin and are constantly defeated.  I have a word for you also.  Give up the struggle and REST in Jesus. His invitation to come to Him and rest is addressed to defeated Christians as well as to the lost. "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me;  for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30.

 

Throughout the Bible we are taught to rest in God.  Read and meditate and rest  in some of God's promises to you. 

"Tomorrow is the rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord."  Exodus 16:23  The seventh day of the week was given to God's people,
Israel.  For further teaching on the Sabbath, go to my article on the SABBATH on this web site.

 

"My presence shall go with thee and I will give thee rest."  Exodus 33:14

 

In Deuteronomy 3:18-20  God challenges Israel to conquer the Land of Canaan which He has given them and possess it until He has given them rest.

 

Numbers 13-14  tells the story of how the older generation failed to trust God to conquer
Canaan.

All the old generation  wandered for forty years and died in the wilderness except for two men, Caleb and Joshua.  These two men had the opportunity to conquer
Canaan with the younger generation.

 

Joshua 21:43-45 tells of how God gave them victory and rest in
Canaan.

 

In Hebrews 3-4  the Christian is instructed to learn from
Israel the importance of resting in Christ.  I encourage you to read these two chapters carefully and prayerfully and ask God to help you to learn of this rest in your own life. Note that our rest as Christians is the theme of these two chapters.

 

Going back to our text in Matthew 11:28-30,  note that rest comes as we accept the yoke of Jesus.  Think of  the yoke on two oxen or two horses.  Jesus is the strong one.  You and I are the weak ones. But when we accept His yoke on our necks and bow to His will in our lives and allow Him to direct us, the load that was once heavy, becomes light.  The neck that is yielded to Christ is not rubbed sore trying to fight the yoke. His yoke becomes easy.

 

In John 15  Jesus likens us to branches in His grape vine.  He is the vine.  We are the branches. How do we bear fruit?  How do we live for Christ and serve Him effectively?  It's easy.  Just abide in the vine and allow His life-giving sap to flow through us.  Only then can we bear His fruit and He alone gets the glory.  That's how we serve Him without growing weary and experiencing "burn-out". 

 

Read, meditate and rejoice in this wonderful truth from Isaiah 40:28-31 "Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary?  There is no searching of His understanding. He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.  Even the youths shall faint and be weary and the young men shall utterly fall.  But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." 

I encourage you to read and mediate on Psalm 37.  Like the cow lying down in the pasture and ruminating on its cud,  read and ponder this comforting Psalm. 

March 12, 2006 Posted by | Encouragment | Comments Off on Rest