Litter in My Life

During our marvelous time visiting Israel this spring, the one unfortunate detail we noticed was the considerable amount of litter in some areas of the country. Due to the 1960’s and 70’s “Keep America Beautiful” campaigns, I’m keenly aware of the importance of properly disposing of trash. After all, it’s difficult to forget the tearful image of Iron Eyes Cody, who portrayed a Native American, shedding a tear at the sight of litter in our nation. And here we were in God’s holy and chosen land, but the inhabitants had littered the landscape. Feeling the sadness well up in me, the Lord then shifted my thoughts to the garbage in my heart and life, because after all, He dwells inside me through His precious Holy Spirit.

How do I grieve my Lord by not keeping myself pure?

Perhaps our litter is composed of one or more of these elements:

Busyness—I felt compelled to put this at the top of the list. These days most women are active and engrossed in numerous concerns. As a busy woman, also, I realize many of these activities are good and many benefit ministry. But busyness leads to lack of intimacy with our Heavenly Father. God’s Word exhorts us “… to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:5, NIV). Furthermore, “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’” (Psalm 46:10, NIV).

Loose Lips—Why, oh why, do we say some of the things we say? “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21, NIV). Enough said.

Selfishness—We all have a desire to do what we want to do, but is our spirit of “me first” causing pain in the lives of others? How are my selfish actions causing others to suffer? Colossians 3:5 (NIV) admonishes us to, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.”

False Teachings—Only the Bible itself is reliable and infallible. Are we filtering what we see and hear through the lens of God’s Word? “Those who cleanse themselves from the latter [false teachers] will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21, NIV).

Disobedience—Sin gains a foothold even if by our estimation it’s just a “tiny” one. Are we holding on to something a little too tightly? “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:7-8, NIV).

I’m thankful for sanctification as His holiness cleans out the litter in my life. We can’t do it on our own but only through His Spirit which imparts His power. May our prayer be, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10, NIV). May it also be our daily prayer.

Additional Bible Truths:

2 Corinthians 7:1 (NIV): “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”

2 Peter 3:14 (NIV): “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him.”

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Drop Dead Gorgeous

We’ve all done it. We’ve stretched the truth to appear more dramatic. We’ve fabricated a story to cover exactly what happened. We’ve told a white lie in order to not offend someone. But the Bible employs different words for those actions: deception, falsehood, unwholesome talk, and finally, lying lips.

Let’s move to a narrative in Scripture where our heroine possibly thinks,

It’s just a little lie, a little deception, and we’ll keep some of the money for ourselves.

Her name, Sapphira, means sapphire—a beautiful and precious gemstone—Sapir is the Hebrew word from which it originates. Perhaps her eyes were even a lustrous blue, but the jewel was flawed. God struck down Sapphira with a premature death, and we remember Sapphira for her sin rather than her beauty.

Acts chapter 5, verses 1-11 relays the story of Sapphira, along with her husband Ananias, and their deception in the early church of Jerusalem. Desiring the flattering praise of men, they conspired to sell some property, keep a portion of the money for themselves, yet present before the church the lower sum of money pretending it was the complete amount they received from the sale and not just a portion. When confronted with their deception, the Lord first put an end to Ananias’ life. Later, even after Peter the Apostle offered her an out, Sapphira chose to continue the lie. Then God struck her down.

Whoa! You are most likely thinking that’s a terrible and harsh reaction from God. Why would He kill them? They were certainly entitled to keep some of the money from the sale, but they fabricated a story saying what they “put at the apostles’ feet” was the complete, whole amount of money. The integrity of the early church was at stake and God was not going to tolerate lying. Just as lying has led to the downfall of many Christian leaders today, the early church had too much at stake for this type of sin to take root. It could have choked out the work God was going to do with and in the first believers adversely influencing the future of the church and the spread of Christianity.

What does this historical account mean for us today? You and I can ask ourselves these questions:

  • What am I holding back? Have I fully surrendered my heart?
  • Do I have a desire to be noticed? Am I seeking the applause of man rather than heaven?
  • Am I allowing social media to tempt me to flaunt my good deeds? Am I seeking to “one-up” everyone else?
  • Am I stretching the truth? Am I even telling downright lies?
  • And finally, are these actions blocking or even stopping the work God wants to do in and through me? What effect does this have on His church?

Father God, Please forgive me of the sin of deception which has crept into my life. Please cleanse my heart of this evil and create a new heart. Please restore me to a life of integrity so your will and purposes can be accomplished in me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Proverbs 11:3 (NIV): “The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

Proverbs 12:22 (NIV): “The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy.”

John 8:44 (NIV): “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

© 2018 APearlofGreatValue.org. All rights reserved.

 

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Attitude Adjustment

“Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-28, NIV).

Jesus’ words jump off the page as they diverge from what we routinely witness in today’s culture. We see that Jesus had God’s agenda in mind. He knew he would face death on the cross—the ultimate act of service for us. In contrast, I’m observing and reading a lot about entitlement these days. We’re seeing a coddled generation, but how many of us who are older have adapted this same behavior? Are we expecting others to serve us, meeting our perceived needs and demands? Continue reading “Attitude Adjustment”

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Soil Conditioning

Gardening is one of my pleasures in life. This spring I’m busy transplanting rose bushes, adding hydrangeas, and calculating what herbs to grow this season. It’s my version of “crop rotation.” As we dig the holes for our shrubs I’ve learned the importance of digging a very large hole, and since we live at the coast, it’s important to amend our sandy soil with rich, fertile loam. If we don’t take that precaution our plants will never thrive.

The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke convey Jesus telling the parable of a farmer who sows his seed. This threefold repetition points out the importance of the message contained in the illustration, so we need to pay attention. Some seed falls along a path where it was trampled on and birds ate it up. Some lands on rocky ground, but when the plants begin to grow they wither due to lack of moisture and shallow soil. Even more seed falls among thorns, which grew up with the plants and choked the good plants out. Finally, the remainder of the seed fell on good soil where “… it came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown” (Luke 8:8, NIV).

Scripture informs us the seed described in Jesus’ parable is God’s Word. If the seed falls along the path, it means we’ve heard God’s Word, but don’t understand it. Satan steals it from our hearts; we do not believe and therefore are not saved. If it falls on rocky ground, we’ve received God’s Word with joy, but we have no root and fall away once difficulties arise due to not being firmly planted and established. If it falls among thorns, we’ve heard God’s Word but the worries, concerns, and pleasures of life choke out His truth and we do not mature in the Lord.

However, if the seed falls among good soil, we’ve heard God’s Word and we keep it and persevere in life. We produce a crop—evident by our good works, compassion for others, and all the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

How do we ensure God’s Word falls on good soil?

Discipline is the slow-release fertilizer that continually works to fortify our soil.

Discipline is defined as, “training that corrects, molds, or perfects moral character” (Merriam-Webster.com). For the Christian, this training implies an ongoing process and would include practices such as prayer, reading and studying the Bible, attending church, and fellowship with other believers.

But it is through setting aside time with God that we become acquainted with Him and His Word. We cannot neglect to pray for wisdom and discernment prior to Bible study, asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate Scripture. Furthermore, meditating on the Word provides the necessary time to listen and understand. Luke 8:18 (NIV) charges us with, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.” We’re to understand and become mindful of God’s Word in order not to forfeit it. Read Scripture, know Scripture, memorize Scripture.

Discipline requires time, commitment, and practice. As we fertilize and enhance our soil with discipline, only then will we become fruitful and produce a crop.

Father God, Please help me to grow in the knowledge and understanding of your Word. I know it’s only by disciplining myself to spend time alone with you and in your Word will I be able to safeguard the condition of my soil. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

The Parable of the Sower appears in the following three gospel accounts:

Matthew 13:3b-23

Mark 4:3-25

Luke 8: 5-18

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Lean on Me

Smitten. That one word sums up how my husband and I feel about Remy, our rescued standard poodle. And Remy delights in us, confidently knowing he hit the jackpot the day we adopted him and took him out of what had been a painful situation for him. Leaning against us whenever the opportunity presents itself, he demonstrates his total devotion and affection for us. This is no gentle lean against our thigh, but similar to Velcro, he adheres his whole 65-pound body to us, leaning so “hard” that we can easily topple over. We’re Remy’s protection and his safe place.

Do I lean into God and is He truly my safe place?

If you’re like me, perhaps you worry more about productivity and all the things that we have to do, when God quietly calls us to lean in and believe in his provision. Often we just grab hold of the steering wheel and move forward in life in our own power. Do we sincerely know how to rely on Him? Do I completely trust Him as wise King Solomon exhorts us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, NIV)?

As the saying goes, it’s so much easier said than done. We give it to the Lord, and then we take it back, rather than depending on His provision and love. God yearns to have us draw near to Him when:

  • Life is painful and we hurt. Perhaps it’s illness, impending surgery, or struggles with children or grandchildren.
  • We’re overwhelmed. We have too much to do, we’ve poured ourselves out for others and we feel drained, and fatigue has set in.
  • We continually struggle with besetting sin. It might be poor choices, habits, or addictions, but sin has ensnared us and we know it.

We may feel like a restless ship out in the open seas dealing with all life has thrown our way. But, just as incoming boats find rest in a safe harbor, Jesus invites us to relinquish our cares and abide in Him. When everything crumbles around us, it’s only by opening our hearts and minds to Jesus Christ, our bread of life, will he nourish and sustain us. We can’t overlook the importance of spending daily time in Scripture and communing with Him in prayer for this sustenance, but let’s also delve a little deeper. Are we taking the time to wait on Him and to allow Him to speak to us through His Word or during prayer? I know I often don’t, and that’s when I start taking control once again and lose that intimacy with our heavenly Father. We need to be faithful to lean and listen, because as a dear friend of mine likes to say, “God’s got this.”

We delight in Remy as he leans into us and takes comfort from us. How much more so as we lean into our Lord with all we have, confident He will meet us and tuck us inside the shadow of His wings. “Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 63:7, NIV).

Father God, I confess I like being in control, but I just can’t do all of this on my own. I acknowledge my need for you. Please help me lean into you, trust you, and relinquish my situation to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Truths:

Exodus 14:14 (NIV): “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Psalm 18:2 (NIV): “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

Jeremiah 17:7-9 (NIV): “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.”

John 15:4-5 (NIV): “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

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