The Bible says healthy spirituality mandates pruning. The most direct teaching about that comes with Jesus discourse about the vine and the branches in John 15. (As an aside: long ago in Bible school we had to memorize the main theme in each chapter of John. I remembered “15” because the “1” looked like a straight vine and the “5” like a crooked vine needing pruning. That’s your freebie of the day!) Jesus said the Father (the gardener) cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit and prunes the fruit-bearing branches so they can produce any more.
Friday, March 27, 2015
Friday, March 20, 2015
Our mouths, she said, are “only a barometer” that divulge whether we’re “immersed in humility or surrendered in obedience to the Lord.” What we say can also reveal if we’re “housing a malnourished spirit that stubbornly refuses to yield to the wisdom of God’s own Word.” A condensed version of her tests for a troubled mouth:
*Quarrel with spouse or divisive with others? Shows: lack of deep peace, need for Christ’s grace in strengthening relationships.
*Gossipy? Shows: failure to see troubled people as needing support, prayer, companionship.
*Negative (doubtful, skeptical) outlook? Shows: failure to trust God’s ability to handle wisely the details and timing of your life.
Friday, March 13, 2015
My son is an electrical engineer for our local hydroelectric power company. As a techno-ignoramus myself, I have no idea where he got the genes for that. When the power goes out somewhere, he’s one of the go-to guys for figuring out how to sleuth out bad parts and reroute things so that somebody can cook dinner, a factory keep running, and the traffic lights keep sanity on our streets.
But we don’t always live as people of power. I appreciate the insight offered by Ruth Myers in her little book, The Satisfied Heart (Waterbrook, 1999). Her faith led her to a Christian college, where she met and married a great Christian man. They went to the mission field, had two great kids. Then came a "power crisis." Her husband died of cancer, leaving her with two small children (almost 5 and 6). She saturated herself in Scriptures as she trusted God for the next step, and the next, and the next. In a chapter titled “His Love Liberates Me,” Ruth talked about even born-again Christians becoming aware of bondage to their backgrounds, resentments toward others, unbiblical goals, bad attitudes, wrong desires, emotions and certain ways of thinking. She noted:
In other words, the power flows as it should, in abundance, and with power comes hope. “Hope” isn’t some out-there thing, but a tried-and-true provision of God. Ruth models that in writings that are soaked with scripture, revealing her lifelong, disciplined study of God’s Word. As Paul pointed out in his letter to the Romans: For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (15:4)
So there it is: “hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” We can’t measure it like my son and his co-workers do the “zaps” that flow through our electrical lines. (Yes, I know that’s a primitive explanation, but I’m not a scientist.) But our spiritual lives go dead without it.
Friday, March 6, 2015
A railroad track skirts one edge of the nature trail park where we like to walk. Sometimes, a train rumbles past, and my husband starts counting aloud the number of cars behind the engines. The more cars behind, the greater the engine power needed up front.
Admonitions to praise God go way, way back. In her book Karen! Karen!, author/speaker Karen Mains quoted from a translation of one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, giving instructions for those living in the long-ago hermetic desert community:
As long as I live, it shall be a rule engraved on my tongue to bring praise like fruit for an offering and my lips as a sacrificial gift.
As the scroll continues, it instructs adherents to recite the Ten Commandments morning and evening, and bless God's name continually as the day progresses, not just before meals.
From life's daily rhythms, the writer moved to harder things:
When fear and terror come, and there is only anguish and distress, I will still bless and thank Him for His wondrous deeds, and meditate upon His power, and lean upon His mercies all day long. For I know that in His hand is justice for all that live, and all His works are true. So when trouble comes, or salvation, I praise Him just the same.(2)
(2) Karen Mains, Karen! Karen! (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1979), pp. 148-49.
Friday, February 27, 2015
Overzealous beavers have prompted groundskeepers at our local riverfront nature park to make its precious trees less appetizing. To keep the critters from chewing through the trees and felling them, they’ve wrapped fencing wire around trees at ground level. Unless the toothy critters want to acquire badly designed braces, they’re more apt to leave the “wired” trees alone. Protecting vital trees is a good thing, but wrapping barriers of false belief systems around us is not. The problem reminded me of how Robert S. McGee dealt with behaviors of rejection in his book, The Search for Significance (Rapha Publishing, 1985, 1990). The book offers a loving hand of hope to those who are cobbled by the ramifications of feeling rejected by God and others. Common in those negative thought patterns are these contradictory behaviors (p. 281):
I am totally accepted by God (Colossians 1:21-22)
I am a new creation, complete in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Friday, February 20, 2015
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come. (Song of Solomon 2:11)
Especially for those who live in climates where gray winter days drag on, it’s a happy day when flowers appear again.
God knows how much “winter” we can endure spiritually. Renewal and hope—like fifty shades of early spring flowers--can come as we walk in trust and obedience to God.
Our “sin” state left us stuck in a spiritual winter. But Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins made it possible for us to have new spiritual life.
Friday, February 13, 2015
|Barbed wire for a Valentine's Day blog? Yes, because|
we all know people who have barriers against trusting Christ.
I find that image helpful in praying for the unsaved—that, as it were, the “chase” will eventually cause them to pay attention to the God who loves them more than they can ever imagine, even in their rejection of Him.
I’m also encouraged to persevere in praying because of stories from lives of people of prayer, like George Mueller. In the 1800s, this man established many orphanages in
One time, somebody asked, “Have you ever prayed for something you have not received?” Mueller replied, “Sixty-seven years ago I began praying for fifteen men. Two of them have not been saved.” There are various versions of the “end of the story,” but the prevailing account is that one became a Christian at Mueller’s funeral, and the other a few years later.