Saturday, August 27, 2011

Garden Growth

by Bethany Lashbrook

This week’s verse: Genesis 2:9, "The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." (NIV)

Clint and I have not been very successful with gardens at our home. Three years now, we have planted various flowers, plants, and gardens. All have had portions that have failed. I tend them, water them, weed them, nurture them, and love them. I rarely miss a day without taking care of them.

I love watching flowers grow. I love knowing that I have planted something and I can help it grow!

But, on the flip-side, it’s very discouraging to watch something fail. I often comment that it costs more to water these plants than it did to buy them.

I was mentioning to our neighbor the other day about how hard it is to keep anything alive on our property and she reminded me that our homes were built over a landfill (yep - back in the day). We have found whole bricks buried in our yard while planting. Rocks of all sizes are in our hard clay-like soil. This is discouraging, yet, I don’t give up.

Now, apply this to represent God and me (of course!). God is the nurturer, the lover, the gardener, and I am the garden. Sometimes I grow. Sometimes I flourish. Sometimes I am beautiful.

And then sometimes I fail. My heart is as hard as a brick. My mind becomes hard as stone. I fail to receive any of the nutrients the Lord is trying to feed me. Sometimes I am ugly. And, yet, He doesn’t give up.

I’m so glad that we have a Lord that continuously, relentlessly, knowingly, and forgivingly loves us. To him, we are always beautiful - even at our most ugly moments.

Dear Father, thank you for our chance at life. We know you have magnificently made us in your image. We anticipate the day we get to meet you and see what a perfect man is like. Thank you for your forgiveness when we just can’t get it straight. Thank you for your unending love when our hearts are ugly and filled with grit. Thank you, Father, for you Son Jesus. And it’s in his name that we pray, Amen.

Application: Pray this week that your heart is opened to what God is calling you to do, to say, or to act on. Be still and listen. And then take action. Be prepared for what He has sent your way. Know, ladies, that he would never call us to do anything that we couldn’t handle!

Power Verses:
Ezekiel 17:22-24, “‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches. All the trees of the forest will know that I the LORD bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.'" (NIV)

Ecclesiastes 3:11, "Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end." (NLT)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wait Upon the Lord

by Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: Proverbs 20:24, “A man’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?” (NIV)

A few months ago, I read a book called A Moment of Weakness by Karen Kingsbury. I mention this book because the message I took from it has stayed with me since I finished it. The message is this: God has a plan for His children, a plan He will bring about in His way and timing. When we try to accomplish God’s plan in our own way and in our own time, the consequences can be devastating. And in the end, God’s plan will still be completed. Now, I’m not sure this is the intended message of the author. However, I am sure it’s what God intended for me.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (NIV) I love this verse, and it is repeated throughout the book. This verse instills hope in me. I find comfort in knowing God has a plan for my life which at times seems chaotic and out of control. However, I have to be patient. And patience is not something that comes easily to me. The Bible tells us, “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” Isaiah 64:4 (KJV) Still, how often do we try to come up with our own plan anyway? Or how often do we fail to wait? When God reveals His plan for us, and we try to speed things up or cut corners, we may end up doing more damage than good. When I consider my life, I wonder how much pain I could have avoided had I sought God’s direction and what circumstances could have been prevented if I had waited for God to move instead of doing things my way.

God’s plan is much better than any plan we could devise. Psalm 118:8 says, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” (NIV) I have to remember God really does have my best interest at heart.

Dear Heavenly Father, I know your plans are better than mine. Help me to sit still when I need to sit still and move when I need to move. Direct my steps, Lord, and show me your way. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Application: Sometimes we find comfort in having our own plan; we trust in it instead of trusting in God. And sometimes, when we know and accept God’s plan, we get in such a hurry to accomplish it that we start running before we’ve been given directions. If you’re struggling in this area this week, take time to seek God. Let him show you the way.

Power Verses:
Psalm 127:1-2, “If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn't guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap.” (MSG)
Psalm 119:105, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (KJV)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Infinite Word, Personal Savior

by Kathy Lay

This Week’s Verse: John 1:1-4, “In the beginning the Word already existed. He was with God, and he was God. He was in the beginning with God. He created everything there is. Nothing exists that he didn’t make. Life itself was in him, and this life gives light to everyone.” (NLT)

Make no mistake—there is no greater authority than Jesus Christ, the Word, who existed with God before He created a single thing. When the apostle John established this “bigger than we can imagine” aspect of our Lord at the beginning of his gospel, he was leading up to the ultimate irony: that so many who were eagerly awaiting their Savior did not accept him when he came. The Word made flesh was even rejected by many of His own people.

On a much smaller scale, that’s like saying, “Tom, I’ll pass on the Mercedes so that I can see what’s behind door number two.” And behind door number two is a toaster.

It’s like brushing off a child’s sweet curiosity with an abrupt “Um hmm” because you’re busy checking email.

It’s like missing the majestic splendor of a vivid winter sunset because the guy in the car in front of yours isn’t driving fast enough.

It’s about the sting of missed opportunity, missed blessing. We don’t want to miss a thing, do we? There’s never been anyone like Jesus and there never will be again. God sent His Son to earth once for all time and for every sin.

All you have to do is accept Him. Accept Him as your Savior, yes. But far beyond that, accept Him into every minute of your life—submitting each one to His awesome, eternal authority—as His true child.

Lord, I confess that I often overlook your infinite awe-inspiring “big-ness”—maybe in part because it’s difficult for me to fully grasp. Instill in us a deeper sense of wonder as we discover new aspects of your divine nature in our daily, sometimes ho-hum lives. We don’t want to miss a single opportunity that you have for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: Read John 1:1-14 and try to wrap your mind around the infinite depth and wonder of The Word made flesh. He’s so much more than we often allow Him to be. Is there anything He doesn’t see? Is there anything that He can’t handle?

Power Verses:
John 1: 14
, “So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.” (NLT)
Mark 6:4-5, “Jesus told them, ‘A prophet has little honor in his hometown, among his relatives, on the streets he played in as a child.’ Jesus wasn't able to do much of anything there—he laid hands on a few sick people and healed them, that's all. He couldn't get over their stubbornness. He left and made a circuit of the other villages, teaching.” (MSG)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lesson Learned

by Bethany Lashbrook

This week's Verse: Exodus 32:16, "
These tablets were God’s work; the words on them were written by God himself." (NLT)

Devotion: For those of you who watch this blog for posts, you will notice that I was late this week! For the life of me, I couldn't get it right. I had a post that I worked on several days and I just couldn't make it happen. It didn't flow. I wasn't feeling God's word.

And so, I put it off. Until today. Going into church this morning, I thought that the Lord would inspire me and I would write about an experience I had at church this morning. I was searching for a devotion to post.

In Sunday school class, we learned that reading and praying daily helps us keep spiritually intact with the Lord. We learned that spiritual fitness is like physical fitness. It is something we have to keep up at and work hard for to obtain results!

In church, the message was also about reading the bible. It's a big difference in saying we will do something and then going out and actually doing it.

So, what was the big moment I was waiting for? I wouldn't call it big, but I would definitely call it a moment. I cried during our worship music - before and after the message. Why? There really isn't a reason why. Sometimes it's just the simple things that the Lord needs to tell us.

Not everything has to be a story or some big "ah-ha" light-bulb moment. Sometimes Jesus just says - it's simple Bethany - just read what I have written.

And there you have it. I failed to issue this blog on Friday. However, I gained a knowledgable lesson from the Lord. Keep it simple. Don't look so hard at the easy stuff. And, don't stress the small stuff. The blogs can wait - but He can't!

Dear Lord, thank you for reminding me that you have authored the best book in the world. Help me to remember to pick it up daily, to read it, to study it, to memorize it, to share it with my children, to engrave it in my life! Thank you Jesus for your Word! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Application: Turn to the word this week! Make it a game with your kids! Keep a New Testament Bible in your car for your wait at the drive-through! Set a calendar appointment on your phone to remind you! Challenge yourself this week in God's word!

Power Verses:
2 Timothy 3:14-17, "But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work." (NLT)

Ephesians 6:10-17, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (NIV)