The Garden of the Soul

Have you been called to be a sower of God’s Word [specifically] into someone else’s life at this season? In order to plant seeds of truth into someone’s heart, the gloves must come off, for planting is delicate work. It is hard to do with covered hands. When the hands become uncovered; they are sure to get dirty. Yet, this is the work of the sower and self-protection is not the focus in times like these. Every part of us must now available for the Lord to use in that person’s life. Every blessing, any heartache, any failure…

What an intimate place to be. What careful planning is needed. What thoughtfulness of the spacing and depth of truth we are to plant in their minds. Though the seed be small, the hope for harvest is sure when placed precisely by the Holy Spirit through us. Souls are dirty but the dirt is not a deterrent ~ it is necessary for growth. The willingness of our hands to really reach into the soul of another with the truth is labor intensive. It is slow at times. Some seed can be scattered while others can be planted only one at a time ~ methodically and individually. Sure we can give the work to others. We can leave it to be done by the “machine” of the church and hope they don’t slip through the cracks…but what is more fruitful than a personal, hand-planted garden? All types of godly sowing are needed at all times in the world, but if you are called to a smaller picture right now this hand-planting may be what it looks like for you right now. Personal, hand-planted gardens may be smaller than a large field of a single crop, but it can be so varied in production!

The seed is the Word of God. The sower is you. Be encouraged that, “He (she) who sows generously will also reap generously.” (2 Corinthians 9:6) So take the Word of God, be sober-minded, ready in every conversation, to touch the soil of another’s heart by gently placing the truth there. May God allow you the joy of seeing that planting, that work, that sowing ~ to come full circle in that person’s life. May you be given the blessing of enjoying the fruit of righteousness in their life…the fruit that you helped plant. You do not labor in vain. Ever. Keep planting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Declare His faithfulness at night…”

Our circumstances are not always an immediate indication of God’s faithfulness. He is being faithful whether we think He is or not. He has held this earth, this universe, and you and I together with the breath of His mouth for this entire day. The sun rose this morning. It set again this evening. Most of us did not have one thought about what we were going to eat for lunch…whether we would have enough water to give our children or ourselves. We did not fear parasites in it when we drank. We do not fear (here in America) being crucified or brutalized for our faith. Not that people who are going through those things are not experiencing God’s faithfulness. They are. Some of the believers going through those things are experiencing more of God than I ever may. He is not far from them. Jesus took that curse of being forsaken upon Himself when He cried out with my sin on His shoulders, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?!” We are not forsaken and whatever today brought into our lives, or out of our lives ~ God is faithful. He is faithful in a good way. Even when the things we are facing are not good. Lord willing, we will awaken tomorrow and experience His faithfulness all over again. Yet some of us are not experiencing it because we don’t believe He is being faithful to us. We really believe in our hearts that He has forgotten our heart’s desires. That He doesn’t care and actually wants to withhold Himself and His blessings from heaven.

That very sinful mindset may be the reason we are not seeing the ways He is currently being faithful.

For how can we see clearly when there is negative goop in our hearts that clogs our ability to “see God?” Blessed are the pure in heart…for they shall see God.

The pure in heart. The ones who do not waver in their faith even when the storms hit. The ones who beg for God to keep their hearts from being calloused over by the deceitfulness of sin. The ones who choose to believe Who God is compared to the “thing” they are going through. Those people will feast on His faithfulness even in the midst of adversity. Even in the midst of tragedy. Those who have trained their minds to be controlled by truth and who pray and read His Word when they find they cannot. It is satan’s slippery slope of temptation for us to believe the lie that God is not being faithful to us. That is why the scriptures tell us to declare it every night. Look back on today and remember the big and the little things that God was faithful in. They are there. Ask Him to show you! List them to yourself and to Him. Let Him know that you see how He took care of you and thank Him for it. And, dear one, He is able to be faithful again tomorrow. His Word says that He will be our guide until the end. Don’t let the worries of this world choke out the joy of recognizing with thankfulness the God Who accomplishes all things for us. Sorrow will end. Until then, take time this evening to declare His faithfulness.

 

Oh How He Loves Us

Does God’s presence seem far from your heart? Has your joy waned? Has complaining replaced thanksgiving? Repentance restores the fellowship that was broken when the Holy Spirit, sensitive as a dove, was grieved. Oh how He loves us! All He wants is for us to turn and acknowledge our sin and humble ourselves before Him (and maybe even others) to help hold us accountable from falling into it again. It is that simple. All we have the power to do is confess. No work can make up for what we’ve done. Jesus paid it all. God just wants our hearts back right with Him. Confession is the way back to experiencing His presence.

David did this in one of his most famous Psalms. Psalm 51. The entire Psalm is full of language that is nothing but confession and crying out to God for forgiveness ~ for that was all he could do.

Maybe your joy is one step away from being fulfilled again. Maybe your peace is one confession away. For His Word says,  Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19-20a)

I want the refreshing, so I will be quick to repent. God is so patient and gracious. He wants desperately to restore the fellowship that was blocked by sin…but He waits for us to come.

Lord, when our thanksgiving turns to complaining…we are sorry. Your ways are perfect and though we don’t understand, we have hope. We know You are not angry with our questions; but You are not pleased with unbelief. Forgive us, Lord. Cleanse us in our inner parts and restore a right spirit in us. The spirit that enjoys unhindered fellowship with You. Thank You Jesus for taking away all our sin! It is in Your name we pray, Amen. 

Ministering when you hurt…

“When Jesus heard of it, he departed thence by ship into a desert place apart: and when the people had heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities.  And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them, and he healed their sick.” Matthew 14:13-14

How Jesus must have been hurting. He had heard the news that His own cousin and friend had just been killed; ruthlessly beheaded at the whim of an evil woman. He needed time alone with His Father, time to grieve…yet the people desperately still needed Him. So wounded, so sick, so personally thirsty for His words of life and His healing touch; they did not discern His pain. But Jesus did not turn them away. He faced the crowd…with compassion in His heart. So great was His trust in the Father to give Him the strength He needed, He ministered in spite of His own hurt. What pouring out! What sacrifice! I, myself, have struggled with this. When I feel as though I have given more than my fair share (even if I was happy to do so at the time) and then I am called upon for more…my heart gets calloused and I think, “Isn’t there somebody else that can do this right now? Can’t they all see how much I have already given!?” Oh God! Make me more like Jesus! More willing to lift up my eyes and “see” with compassion, even when I feel as though I have been drug through the ringer myself.

Our God knows when we need to be led by “still waters.” May we not be so self-absorbed in our own hurts that we are not moved with compassion towards those around us who are hurting. Serve in the strength that God provides…for when Jesus was ministering in His own hurt, God did one of the most famous of His miracles. (See Matthew 14:16-21) Who knows? Maybe our faithfulness in the midst of our own hurt will lead us to experience a great miracle in our own lives.

I am sure of this: “He who waters will himself be watered.” Ministering in spite of our own hurt actually helps the healing process for us. It is what will keep us “alive” as we navigate that which feels as though it is “dying” in or around us.

May Jesus’s example be in our minds the next time we are hurting and want to shut the door on others around us, crawl in our “hole”, and partially give up on life. Jesus shows and gives us the power to do otherwise. We can still minister…even when we hurt.

Greater Things

What if the thing He is taking out of your hand is only to give you the freedom to grasp that which is so much bigger than you ever thought? It is the picture of a child white-knuckling a 10 cent bouncy ball ~ unable to grasp the triple-scoop cone her Father has for her. I hear the preaching against this “bigger and better theology” but I urge you to not turn away just yet.

From glory to glory does not mean from a Camry to a Lexus. It means who I was yesterday is not who I am today. It means enlarging the borders of your ministry and influence around you. It means believing God for bigger things than a good deal on your next pair of blue jeans…how about an utter transformation in your city? How about a God-breathed revival in the public school down the street from your house? What if the entire governmental structure of your town gave their lives and their law-making to the God of heaven and started doing things a bit differently? What if sex-trafficking criminals in your area were brought down through your prayer group?

Have we dreamed and seen such things?!

Or are we still just white-knuckling our little dime store ball and unable to grasp the wonders of the Kingdom of God in and through us? Drop it. Pray with open hands. Don’t just read the Bible ~ look for God to do the same things now that He did then. Let His Kingdom come, let His will be done. Grasp the “bigger and better” of Jesus’s life, promises, and ministry. It may mean that you have to let Him have that little ball in your hand. I don’t know what the “little ball” is in your life. Ask the Holy Spirit. Then open your hand and give it to Him willingly ~ give yourself room to hold greater things.

He Wants Us to Know

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Because the Arameans think the LORD is a god

of the hills and not the valleys,

I will deliver this vast army into your hands,

and you will know that I am the LORD.'”

1 Kings 20:28

Because they thought He was a god of the hills and not the valleys…

How do we fare comparatively?

Is our view of God such that He is a God of the highs and not the lows? He is the God of prosperity but not of suffering? The God of spiritual mountaintops but not valleys of sorrow?

He is God of ALL.

Your highest heights. Your deepest hurts. Your joy-filled hours and your longing-filled months. There is a view of God that He will send “armies” of trials to correct if we have it. The view is any view that challenges Him as being LORD of anything less than everything.

He is not wringing His hands in our trials ~ He has sent them.

He is not powerless over evil ~ He overcomes it with good.

He is not striving to make a deadline ~ He is the keeper of all His own plans.

These valleys, these lows…Yes, He is God of them too. Of Mt. Carmel’s victory and of the caves where we flee to hide. Read the Bible and there you will see the true God of it all. These people were about to suffer defeat due to their wrong view of God. Does this not happen in our lives? The breaking up of a relationship because we have a wrong view of grace? The giving up right before the breakthrough because we have a wrong view of faithfulness? We feel as though God left us somewhere back in the valley where the vision and motivation died, unaware of the persevering side of God that He was teaching us to be like.

God is the God of the Valley of the Bitterness of Our Waiting. 

Your low place is not a place of God spitefully shoving your face in the dirt. It is the place of the training of surrender to Him. Would you camp there? Would you let your heart and mind agree to stay as long as the Lord wills? Or do we only see Him as a God worthy to be followed and loved if He is leading us to places of great heights and rejoicing? Have we forgotten that even the joyfully received, brief ministry of Jesus was constantly followed around by threats of death and traps in the midst? That simultaneous with the thousands rejoicing over their healing was still the painful thought of the cross?

The Valley of the Bitterness of Our Waiting is replaced with joy at the simple thought of heaven.

God is the God of the Valley of Sorrow over Loss and Trauma.

Truth is the only thing that will set our souls aright in this valley. The truth that God will one day vindicate it all. The truth that God will use it now. The truth that God will heal it in anyone who desires healing. The truth that He went through it too. And that He cares for and will carry your pain.

These are the valleys of life that, if we are not careful, we will become disoriented in regard to Who God continues to be while we are there. Yes, He is the God of both the hills and the valleys…and He wanted the Arameans to know that.

Maybe this thing called life is not all meant to be interwoven. Maybe the patchwork experiences we have of God in our lives is to make a beautiful quilt, not just one continual garment of a single cloth. Every experience, every talent, every different piece of God that you have come to know…is being put together into a piece of art. Beautiful and woven together by God Himself, for it is He who holds all things together by the Word of His mouth. Each piece that we have lived out and fought to make sense of, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when we view them individually. Step back. See how it looks from a distance…that is what you are displaying to the world. Let each piece have it’s significance whether large or small. Maybe that thing you went through last year was only for that one conversation on that plane ride last week. Maybe that season that God took you through will be the banner of His faithfulness of which you will proclaim for the rest of your years. All of it has a piece to add to the whole. When we see you, and all that God has done in your life, we see patchwork so gloriously unique, that we are blessed to behold it. So don’t try to make sense of how it should all fit…just allow God to add that piece on. Oh what a glorious thing He is creating in me and in you! Love even the parts that don’t seem to make sense now…for they will in time. We will one day see how and why each piece was needed and the beautiful working of God’s hand in it all.

“The Lord is my Shepherd…”

Let Me be, dear child. Let Me lead you. All your striving, all your worry, all your running here and there-have I guided you into all those activities? Have I given you reason to worry? Is My track record not utter faithfulness? Oh, let My Spirit guide you every moment. You may be in a hard place-but I am only testing your obedience. You may long to rest a while, but the green pastures I mean to feed you on are a little ways off yet. Stay close to Me, hear My voice…do not try to figure it out on your own. For I am Your good Shepherd. I have laid down My life for you-will I not also give you all good things? Does My Word not promise this? Call Me your Shepherd. Look to Me as your Shepherd. Your every need is in My plan, your every wandering in My book, your every tear in My bottle. Place yourself fully in My care today. Trust in Me for I AM your good Shepherd.

Sickness of Soul

I have no hope against the own blackness of my sin, save calling upon the name of Jesus Christ. All the mustering of my self-will, all the striving against sin, falls short of victory unless I first place myself humbly at the feet of the One Who gives great power to those who call upon His grace to help them in their time of need. (Hebrews 4:16) My judgment passes on others with aloof disdain, as I myself, turn and display the same fleshly tirade~with the same breath nonetheless! All we can pray is, “Lord, keep me from willful sins, let them not rule over me!” (Psalm 19:13) Our only hope is to take the sickness of our soul and offer it to the mercy of the Spirit Who can slay the covetous, angry, self-righteous, merciless, haughty, lustful, and harsh brute that is us at any given moment. When our flesh reigns, we see the faults in others as a log and our own as a speck. When our flesh reigns, we justify our harshness against the actions and the behaviors we endure. Our covetousness is masked in entitlement (see the older brother in the story of The Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-32.)

There is no hope that our flesh will get any better until we are made completely new at the coming of Jesus. Still, we have not yet resisted our sin to the point of shedding blood (Hebrews 12:4.) And it is not our blood that matters~it is washing ourselves anew in the blood of the Holy One. It is letting His righteousness wash over us and in us and through us again this hour. Go to Him again. Maybe we fell into sin 5 times in the last ten minutes; He never wearies of renewing the soul of a repentant child. Sometimes all I can say is, “Lord help me!” It is certainly a prayer that the Lord is able and willing to answer. There is no one who has “arrived” at some super-Christian maturity that lessens their need of the Spirit’s indwelling power to keep them on “track.” Neither then have we arrived. My own depravity should not shock me. It should sober me up. Placing myself all the more desperately at His feet again tomorrow. The perfection of Christ is applied to me and is mine even now; only may it be realized in my life more and more! (Romans 8:29)

apt words

I don’t love words like some writers love words. I love the life-changing effect a timely word can have on our insides. An entire mindset can shift upon the hearing or reading of words. I love the flow of the Holy Spirit when He fills our minds and lips with words that will speak life and grace and truth~and we get to see the effects of such an exchange. “Like apples of gold in settings of silver…” (Proverbs 25:11a) That is what we, as Christians, should want our words to be. The very thing that person needed to hear. The very life that would cause their spirit to be lifted…maybe even give them a fresh hope for one more day. Our words can go far beyond that, when birthed by the Holy Spirit~they can change a life for eternity.

“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.”

If someone’s faith in Christ comes by hearing the Word of God, then the Word of God is spread by our speaking it. Our writing about it. By it being the Living Word in and through us.  What a priceless treasure we have been given by having access to and the reason to rely upon the written word of the living God. You may go to church today to hear someone proclaim His Word…receive it as an apt word straight from the heart of God for you. It is, most assuredly, alive and able to speak life into the dead and hurting places of our soul that we may not have even exposed to anyone else. Listen for and give “apt words” today.