Treasures Of The Heart

I flew from Atlanta to London this week.  I got up to the ticket desk, handed over my passport, and waited while the man behind the desk processed my details.  He then tagged my suitcase, handed me my boarding pass, and wished me a good flight.  It was while making my way to passport control that it hit me — where was my red passport cover?  I diligently searched my carry-on but it wasn’t there.  I keep my passport inside this cover, always having to remove it for officials to scan, and then put it back.

Doing an about face, I returned to the check-in desk but my red passport cover was not there.  The man behind the desk said he hadn’t seen it.  I could only conclude that the person behind me must have seen it where I lay it on the counter and taken it.  Returning to the passport control, my steps were heavy, my heart filled with disappointment.  Whoever took my red passport cover would have quickly seen it was of no monetary value, but for me, the sentimentality could not be replaced.  I’ve had this red, leather, very well worn, passport cover for the whole 34 years of my travels.

If it could have talked, it could tell the stories of traveling behind what was the Iron Curtain.  It could have described India, Pakistan,, pasts of Europe, and Iceland.  It was with me in Russia and throughout all my days in Kyrgyzstan.  Oh, how my disappointment grew as I sat waiting to board my flight.  It was a treasure to me — a sentimental one — but a treasure nonetheless.

That’s when my thoughts took a sudden turn.  The words of Jesus echoed in my brain, “For where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”  Matthew 6:21  I contemplated the most wonderful treasure available to us — God’s own Word.  His words of love and instruction, guidance and correction — what a treasure for how to know God, how to live with Him forever, how to know His perfect will for our lives, how to relate to those around us, how to live happy, and peaceful.  It’s all there, those nuggets of great treasure and, we can’t lose it.  When we store its truths in our hearts, it’s a wonderful treasure that is always with us.

Then, another passage of treasure came to my mind.  It’s found in Psalm 119:103-106:

“How sweet are Your words to my taste; they are sweeter than honey.  Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life.  Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.  I’ve promised it once, and I’ll promise it again:  I will obey your wonderful laws.”

A peace then, God’s own peace, settled in my heart, beginning to soothe and replace my disappointment over my lost passport cover.  In the smallest or the biggest disappointments of life — Father cares and speaks His treasures into all wounded places.  Let’s not ignore His treasures — let’s store them in our hearts.

 

 

The Budding Of Our Lives

From the moment I arrived at my mother’s house three weeks ago, I’ve been keeping an eye on our pecan trees.  Upon first glance, I saw them standing tall and starkly barren — not a leaf in sight.  Everyday I would look up, hoping to see signs of Spring coming amidst the tree’s dark tangle of bare limbs.

Then yesterday, it happened.  I was doing some yard work when I looked up at the branches thatI knew would be there to greet my sight.  Nothing — or so I thought, but something had registered in my brain, and I looked again. Yes!  There was the evidence of Spring!  The tiniest of green buds appeared at the ends of the smallest, spidery branches.  Oh, joy!  Spring is here!

That’s when I thought of the budding of our lives.  Do you ever feel you’re at a stalemate, spiritually speaking?  Do you feel like you’re not changing into the image of Christ like you want to?  I encourage you to take heart — as long as your desire is to grow in Christ, then just keep on keeping on, focusing on Jesus and His ways,  because Spring is coming.

I think of Peter.  Remember the time when Jesus was to be crucified?  So overcome with fear was Peter, that he denied he even knew Jesus.  Peter had failed miserably, but what did Jesus do after He rose from the grave, conquering death?  He found Peter and spoke into his life the hope of Spring.  He told Peter, just wait, I’m going to make you a rock!  I’m going to build my church upon you!  Peter must have been speechless at such a proclamation, but it happened.  After the power of the Holy Spirit came upon him, Peter was indeed used mightily of God to help the early church grow strong.

Jesus is still speaking today, promising to wash your failures and weaknesses away, to make you into a mighty rock to His glory!  How amazing is that!  Don’t give up on yourself — that’s what Satan wants you to do.  Instead, keep your spiritual ears listening to the words of Jesus and your heart moving in obedience to Him — then wait — Spring is coming.  The budding of His power will evidence in your life.

Remember the words found in Philippians 1:6:

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

That’s an absolute promise!  Yes, buds of growth will come.  It’s always Springtime in our lives when Jesus is our focus.

A Few Dandelions Here And There

I was looking at our yard and noticing the dandelions popping up here and there.  I like them.  They’re pretty — but they are also weeds.  If left on their own, they will quickly take over and choke out the good grass.  As pretty as they are to look at, they must be cut down.  The thing is, they keep coming back and have to be cut down all over again.  Even so, the continual cutting away of the weeds is worth the effort for the good health of the yard.

Our spiritual lives are just like good grass that gets cluttered up with the weeds of this world.  Before we come to know Jesus, who forgives our sins and makes us clean, we are certainly like a yard full of weeds.  How wonderful it is when Jesus, our Holy Gardener, cuts them all away, leaving us healthy and whole.

However, although we’ve been made clean, the temptations of this world can make us yield to the growing of the weeds.  Before we know it, they begin to pop up here and there.  We tell ourselves that they look pretty.  We tell ourselves that a few won’t matter — but they do.  They do matter because a few breeds more — always.  Thats’ a fact in both our physical and spiritual worlds.  Just a few weeds, left unattended, will always multiply.

So, are we doomed to weeds choking up our spiritual gardens because we all yield to temptations?  Wonderfully, no!  How amazing and loving are the forgiving words of hope that we find in I John 1:8-9, “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  As soon as we detect a weed in our spiritual garden, let’s go ahead, confess it, and let our loving, Heavenly Father — our Spiritual Gardener — keep us clean, healthy, fruitful, and whole.

As pretty as some weeds are, a maintained yard is always the most beautiful.  It’s the maintained yard that keeps fruits of the Spirit growing, which are love, peace, joy, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. (Galations 5:22)

Let’s keep a daily check on our spiritual gardens — don’t let the weeds choke away the fruits of the Spirit — then enjoy your garden and the Gardener with the greatest of joy.

Knowing Your Style And Wearing It

My mother and I went shopping the other day.  We both decided that we would like to have a new dress.  Walking into one particular store, there was a great sale going on; with excitement we began to peruse the racks of clothes.  My Mom chose several to try on — I did, too.

As I was walking down one aisle, I took note of a mannequin and what it was wearing.  Would that look good on me?  I searched the nearby racks and found the dress.  Pulling it out I began to have my doubts.  However, I looked again at the mannequin and  thought how good it looked.  I wasn’t sure at all, doubts swirling in my mind, but I took the garment of uncertainty and went to the dressing room.

Oh, no!  Not good!  As quickly as I put it on, I took it off again!  When I returned the dress to it’s rack, I looked menacingly at the mannequin.  How dare it look good when I didn’t!  What had gone wrong?  Well, I mused, a mannequin is unchanging.  It’s created perfectly and stays that way.  Humans, on the other hand, are constantly changing with age.  Bulges appear where once we thought such a thing an impossibility.  There’s nothing we can do about that in our physical worlds.  We have to accept that  — there comes a time in our lives when we don’t look 20 anymore.  Therefore, we have to change our styles accordingly.

Is it the same in our spiritual worlds?  Wonderfully, it doesn’t have to be.  When we become Christians, the Bible talks about “putting on Christ.”  We read in Romans 13:14,  “Clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, and don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.”  When we choose to dress ourselves in the ways of Jesus, and when we keep that spiritual clothing on, we actually look better and better, no matter our ages.  In fact, the more we mature in the Lord, the better our clothes fit as our behavior and speech takes on the resemblance of Jesus.  In our spiritual worlds, we need not be discouraged about age distorting our once youthful bodies, because in our spiritual worlds, when we choose to keep ourselves “clothed with Jesus,” then age doesn’t matter at all.  We can walk around wearing a garment of praise.  When we are “clothed with Jesus,” we have everything of Himself to get us through all our situations in life.  When we are clothed in Jesus — that’s a classy style that never grows old.

Just Passing Through

Last week I shared the news that friends of mine got a puppy.  This collie-husky cross was nameless last week.  Today, she is called — Mishka.  I stopped by earlier this week to visit Mishka.  It had not even been a week since she was brought into her new home.  It was her first experience of going inside a house, seeing furniture, and hearing all the noises a household makes.  It was interesting watching her walk around the first time.  Carefully she would sniff and look, trying to make sense of her new world.

Only four days later when I arrive for a visit — there is Mishka running all over the place with a balance of ease and gusto!  Was she afraid of the couch?  No, she jumped onto it with the greatest of joy.  Was she afraid of the coffee table?  No, she saw it as her own, special hide-away to lay under.  Was she afraid of anything?  No, nothing at all.  Every wriggle of her tiny body shouted — happy, happy, happy!

As I thought about Mishka, I thought about those of us who know Jesus.  We’re like Mishka began – we’re in a temporary home, a sort of makeshift kennel as we go through life.  We’re just passing through.  Our forever home is yet to come.  These thoughts remind me of the song by Jim Reeves – This World Is Not My Home.  It begins as follows:

“This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through.  My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.  The angles beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

It’s wonderful and comforting to know of a certainty that God is our everything and will give us all we need to joyfully and peacefully get through each day.  No matter the trouble or challenge — God Almighty is there to supply all we need.

However, as wonderful as that is, it cannot begin to compare with the joy that is yet to come when we leave our earthly home.  Jesus told His disciples, just before He left earth to return to His Father, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so,  I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.”  John 14:2

Can you imagine what that will be like?  Like Mishka, we will run in ecstasy!  We will trust all we see.  We will worship Jesus who made it all possible.  At long last, we will be home.

Take care not get too comfortable in this world.  Trust Father to get you through each day.  Be thankful for all He supplies.  Enjoy the views of His creation around you.  Praise Him for every sunrise —  but don’t ever be totally comfortable in this world.  After all, it’s not your home.  We’re just pilgrims journeying through.  Life can be great, but the best is yet to come!

When You Are Chosen

This afternoon, as I was reviewing a certain joy of the day, the words of Luke 15:3-7 came to mind: “Jesus told this story, ‘If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do?  Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.  When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.”  

What was the joy of the day?  I got to go with friends, Viv and Nat, to look at puppies!  Would they choose one?  Yes, they did!  This pup needed a home and now has one.  She was chosen.  Now she will learn the ways of her household.  She will settle into their routine.  She will love pleasing them.  She will love hearing the words, “You’re a good dog!”  She will love her tasty rewards.  She will know she is protected and that her needs are provided.  She will come to know and trust all these things.  Why?  Because already she knows she is loved.

She has been rescued from the very small world she knew.  Today, an unimaginable new world opened before her.   She rode in a car, walked on grass, and went inside a house.  Goodness gracious!  What excitement for one who had thus far only known the four walls of a makeshift kennel — and it all came about because she was chosen.  Someone came, found her, chose her, and will love her all the days of her life.

Sound familiar?  Before someone comes to know Jesus, they, too, are confined to their natural worlds.  Then, one joyful day, Jesus comes, like the shepherd going after his lost sheep, and He takes them unto Himself.

He chooses us.  He sees our worldly and ungodly hearts, and He cleans us up.  He gives us new desires.  He pours in a joy that nothing in the natural world ever gave us.  It’s unexplainable but it’s real.  Suddenly, we are reborn into an eternal security that makes us know of a certainty that we are chosen, protected, and our needs are provided.  The more we come to know our rescuer, the more we trust Him, the more we love to please Him, the more we want to know about Him, the more we love hearing Him speak into our hearts, “You’re a good son or you’re a good daughter!”  The more we know Him, the more we recognize and enjoy the blessings of being a member of His household.  Like the words of the song, our hearts can sing, “the longer I know Him, the sweeter He grows.”

Isn’t it a joy to be chosen?  Isn’t it a joy to be rescued from our natural worlds and to be introduced to the holy, supernatural one?  Remember, everyone is chosen, but not everyone accepts what is offered.  God chooses us, but gives us free choice to choose Him.

Have you chosen Him?  If you never have done so before, you can do that right now.  Just ask Him to forgive you of your sins, thank Jesus for dying for you on the cross, and tell Him you choose Him.  Ask Him to come into your life and to make you new.  He will.  He will come instantly.  He will come and fill you with a joy such as you have never known.

Blessings to all — you are chosen.

One Step At a Time

Earlier this week I enjoyed a walk in the woods with a friend of mine.  It had rained through the night but we were prepared with boots and waterproof coats. Off we went.  Don’t you love the smell of forest and leaves after a good rain?

As we walked along the path we were following, we came to a sudden stop because a tree had fallen over and was completely blocking the path.  This was no surprise due to all the flooding that has taken place in recent weeks.  There were, in fact, several trees fallen over.  Even so, this did not deter our walk.  We would simply go around it.

We set off, leaving the path, and making a new path of our own.   We walked carefully, watching where we put our feet, and pushing aside wet branches and bushes.  At one point, very unexpected, I felt my body lurching forward.  The path was clear as far as I could tell, but no! What was that grabbing at my ankle? My arms flew out to steady myself and wonderfully I regained my balance before I toppled over onto a  wet and muddy earth below me.

A very thin, but strong vine had crossed my path, refusing to let my leg move forward.  I shook my leg and foot, and easily enough, freed myself from this vine trap.  If I had not taken swift action to regain balance, and made attempt to free myself, I would surely have fallen down.

As my friend and I got back onto the right path on the other side of the fallen tree, a thought came to my mind.  We take physical walks in this world, but we take spiritual walks, too.  We can be walking along with God, everything is going  just fine.  We are enjoying our walk with Him but then a difficulty crosses our path.  A tree of great challenge has blocked our way.

We decide not to let a challenge stop our walk.  After all, God is bigger than any problem we can ever experience.  Therefore, with thoughts still on our walk with God, we veer in another direction, but wait!  Something unawares has made an attempt to trip us.  Do you ever feel that way?  Perhaps a vine of fear and doubt grabs your ankle, trying to make you fall.  Maybe a vine of worry causes you to lose your balance.  You’re trapped!  You’re falling!  Help!  What can be done?

In these situations there is something most important to remember:  Whatever you do, don’t just stand there, and if you do fall, don’t just lay there.  Keep focusing on God.  Shake your leg and foot with His promises of strength, and get out of the way of what is attempting to stop you in your tracks.

At such moments, Satan will quickly take opportunity to whisper words of failure in your ear.  He loves to see us trip and fall.  Walking with God isn’t on his agenda for any of us.  Satan is always designing unseen vines to hinder our walk with our Father.

I encourage us all, when we know we’re about to fall; when weakness of heart and courage has drained away; when resolve to do what is right has all but disappeared — make a choice to call out to Father for help, and then — walk on.  Get up and go.   Laying there in failure and defeat will never get anyone to a good place.  In fact, you get no where at all.

When vines of temptation or any other weakness crosses your path — make a God choice — take Father’s own strength; shake yourself free,  and keep on walking.  Don’t concentrate on the whole of the path that needs to be walked; that can be overwhelming.  Instead, concentrate on one step at a time.  Like the Apostle Paul reminds us in Colossians 2:6, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord – so walk in Him.”  Make the choice — walk on and enjoy the views along the way.