Spring!

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I LOVE SPRING! I am SO thankful for new life, new beginnings, longer, brighter days and warmer temperatures! Spring in my family also means baseball! I do not know any person alive who gets as excited about Pitchers and Catchers reporting to Spring Training than my Dad! Truth be told, I am such a nicer person when it is warmer out!

I am also reminded that south of the equator, many are preparing for Fall. I have been to Peru numerous times in July and August and I am amazed by the reversal of seasons! In the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Jordan) there are only two season, the dry which runs April-September and the rainy/wet season from October to March. What fascinates me about this is how God sustains life in each of these different regions with their different climates and agriculture.

I keep muttering/murmuring Ecclesiastes 3:11, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (ESV). The Hebrew word beautiful here means appropriate. The beauty is in recognizing and acknowledging that God, “in His providential plans and control has an appropriate time for every activity” (Glenn, BKC, 1985, p. 984). However, there is a deep longing inside of us to understand more, to investigate what God is doing in our lives and in the lives of others. Because “we are not able to discern any place or pattern for all of this…We thus have a sense of alienation and bewilderment in time” (Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, 1993, p. 299). Every person is wired for eternity and either we can trust that God has made the appropriate beautiful or we can fight against Him.

I cannot understand why Winter has to last so long (or is even necessary), nor why the good people south of the equator are preparing for Fall. But what I do know is that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Ps 19:1). Regardless of where you live and what season you find yourself entering, I pray that you will take some time to talk with God. May we thank Him for where He has us and ask Him to prepare us for what He wants to do in and for us. I know that for many people, Spring still seems far off. As God holds the universe, so too, He holds you. Let Him hold you. Enjoy this new beginning. Enjoy the different colors, scents and sounds. I am so thankful to begin another season with you dear reader, thank you for your time!

Father God, thank You and praise You for this new season! Lord God, for those of us in colder climates, thank You that warmth, new life and growth is on the way! Lord, prepare those who are entering Fall for the cooler temperatures. Father, may we trust that You have made everything appropriate in its time. Lord, may the eternity that we are wired for bring us to a place of greater trust and dependence on You. Lord, may we worship You the One who creates beautiful sunsets, budding flowers and changes the color of the leaves! Lord, may Your Creation point us to You! Thank You Lord that we can trust that You are who You say You are and that You never act contrary to Your Word and Character. Thank You Lord that You are constant! Thank You Jesus that You are the same yesterday, today and forever! Triune God I ask by Your Spirit, through Jesus to the glory of the Father, reveal Yourself to this reader today. Thank you Jesus, for this new season and it is in Your name we pray, Amen.

 

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Gezer Calendar. The seven-lines describe the 12-month agricultural activities in Israel. Photo taken by Mandy Sweigart-Quinn May 29, 2017

 

“Planty and the Fishing Pole!”

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (John 15: 2 ESV).

I was absolutely astounded last Saturday when my Professor explained to us in Residency that αἴρω should NOT be translated takes away or cuts off (NIV). The idea of cutting off is not what John had in mind. The historical-cultural background/context reveals that a Vinedresser or Gardner would lift up or take up the vine branch and tie it to a stake, in order for it to receive more nutrients.

As soon as my Professor paused for breath, I asked if I could share a personal story. He agreed and to the best of my recollection, this is what was said:

“Ok, so I have had a plant for the last six years, who is like my child. I love Planty. Planty is very special to me. Now, I have been married for a little over a year. Recently, my husband has decided that Planty needs a new home [my classmates are groaning at this point]. Let’s just say things did not go well in this rehousing process. Planty received bugs from the new soil, which led to my Mom and I sparying Planty with some kind of bug killer. While that did not kill Planty some of his leaves and branches shriveled and became deformed. Not long after that Planty’s bugs returned. At this point I am irate with Nathan [classmates are now laughing as I am getting really worked up].

“I was ready to give up on Planty. So in a last attempt to save Planty, Nathan decided that he was going to wash Planty with dawn dish soap and microwave Planty’s soil. I thought Planty was gonna die. Well, after all this washing and microwaving Nathan replanted Planty into a smaller home. By God’s grace, Planty did not die! Planty did have a very significant lean to him. I said to Nathan, ‘maybe we should just cut Planty off?’ Nathan goes out into the garage and I hear a snap. I had no clue what just happened. Nathan comes back inside and I see that he is holding half of his fishing pole. Y’all have to understand Nathan loves to fish, fishing is life. So, the fact that he just broke his fishing pole was beyond what I could understand [truth be told I am cheap and so that factored into my attitude as well].

“Longer story short, Nathan implores me to trust him, to let him tie Planty to his fishing pole [stake] so that he will get more nutrients. So, right now I am just overwhelmed with emotion [my eyes are rolling to keep tears from falling] because what Nathan has done for Planty, is what God does for me, for us. He does not cut us off, He does not discard us, He loves us, He lifts us up so we may have the nutrients we need to thrive.”

At this point Jake says, “that will preach!” I said, “I have a blog!” Tony says, “Planty and the Fishing Pole!” I said, “I am totally naming it that!”

Father God, thank You that You do not discard us, that You do not cut us off, but rather You lift us up and give us the opportunity and nutrients we need to thrive. Lord God, cause us to thrive for You, through You and in You. Be in us, indwell us Lord. May we give You access to ALL areas of our lives. Thank You Father that You know what we need; may we trust You to supply it! Lord God, may we remain and abide in You. May we trust that You are enough, that You will provide us with the nutrients to thrive. Lord God, may we never shrink back in fear to share what You are doing and are teaching us, no matter how silly it may sound! Lord God, thank You for the gift of life. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

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Planty March 7, 2019

 

 

Welcome, March!

hello march printed paper on white surface
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Father God, thank You for this new month! Lord, lead and guide us as we enter this new month! Father, thank You and praise You that Spring always follows every winter season, literally and figuratively. Lord God, I thank You for this reader. Thank You for helping this reader endure the trials they are facing. Thank You for the support and love that You give Your children whether we feel it or not. Lord God, for those who are seeking breakthroughs, I ask that you surround them with the peace of Your Presence. Thank You Father that Your grace is greater. Lord, may we confess our shortcomings and seek You in our want. May our desires be Your desires, in this new month and beyond. Thank You again Father for new beginnings. Prepare us for the Lenten season. May we never forget Jesus’s work on the Cross. Lord God, we are nothing without You. Praise You for this reader, this new day and this month. Thank You Lord that Your mercies are new each morning! In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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I am absolutely amazed by God’s hesed (covenant faithfulness, also translated loyal love).  Hesed is manifested in relationships whether between God and man or between two individuals. When God reveals Himself to Moses, He says, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love…” (Exodus 34:6-7 ESV, italics added). In Hebrew the word keeping is a participle (verbal adjective). Participles in Hebrew indicate continuous action. God is continuous in keeping steadfast love. At no point in time will this be void.

The Apostle Paul says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8 ESV, c.f. 1 John 4:9-10). Based on this premise the Apostle John states, “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them” (1 John 4:16 NLT). Love is an action, it is a verb, it is something that we do. We love (action) because God first loved us (4:19). The love, faithfulness, kindness, holiness, righteousness of God is perfect. His perfect love expels all fear (4:18).  “Love is characterized by fear when there is a doubt it will be returned. We have no fear of this since God’s love was prior to ours” (Akin, 1,2,3, John, 2001, p. 187). Whatever your thoughts and feelings are toward Valentine’s Day, do not forget this truth: the Cross is the ultimate expression of God’s covenant faithfulness, loyal love. As God’s love and faithfulness are poured into you, may you pour out on those around you. Love does not happen in isolation (see 1 John 4:20-21). Whatever your thoughts and feelings are toward Valentine’s Day, may you be encouraged by God’s love (hesed) for you! Taste and see that the LORD is good (Ps 34:8).

Father, thank You for Your covenant faithfulness. Thank You that love is both Your nature (who You are) and Your action (what You do). Lord, help us to display Your hesed. Help us to be loyal and faithful to You and to those in our lives. Lord, may we not take Your love for granted nor as an excuse to do whatever we please. Lord, may we live and love in a way that brings Your name glory, honor and praise. Thank You Lord, for this reader. May this reader be overwhelmed, encouraged, motivated and awed by the incredible love that You have for them. May they drink and savor Your goodness. May they live free knowing that Your perfect love expels all fear. Hold this reader close to You. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

 

To or With?

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It was ten years ago, but it still resonates with me. At the time, I was allowing situations in life that were beyond my control to effect/affect me in some very negative ways. I loved having God Time in my mom’s living room when it was cold outside. I remember, saying to my mom, as I was heading into the room to be alone, “I need to talk to God.” My mom’s response seriously changed my life. She said, “what if you talked with God instead of to God?” I can attest first hand how changing the preposition changes everything.

If I am only talking to God, (which left unchecked can become talking at God) I will never hear God. I would also hate for God to stop listening to me because all I was doing was talking to Him, (no matter how reverent and sincere) rather than with Him. I would hate for God to not be able to speak freely with me. I know first hand that when I do not allow Him to speak freely with me, He will use some external intervention to get my attention (I have too many of those stories to write nor would you want to hear them all!).

What does your devotional time look like? Do you talk to God or with God? It is my heart’s desire for you to know that Jesus wants to dialogue with you. He wants you to come to Him and talk/speak/dialogue with Him and He with you. As you dialogue with our Triune God, may you grow in His love, grace, forgiveness and mercy. When you hear the Lord calling to spend time and speak with you, may you respond like David, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘LORD, I am coming'” (Psalm 27:8 NLT, emphasis mine).

Father God, thank You for the opportunity to come and talk with You because of Jesus’s work on the cross. Lord God, thank You for the gift of Your Presence and for never abandoning us and leaving us as orphans. Lord God, fill us with Your Holy Spirit, fill us with a desire to be with You above all else! Thank You Lord, for this reader/hearer. Thank You for their life. Help this reader/hearer endure what seems insurmountable. May this reader/hearer praise You Lord for all that You have done, are doing and will do. Lord God, be with this reader/hearer. May they draw near to You and dialogue with You and You with them. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

 

 

Goodbye January, Welcome February!

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Taste and see that the LORD is good (Psalm 34:8)

Father God, thank You that spring literally and figuratively follows every winter season. Lord God, for those of us who struggle with winter, I ask for Your grace, mercy and strength to endure! For those who enjoy winter, I ask that You will fill them with adventure and wonder! Lord God, I ask that You prepare us for this upcoming short month. Lord, I do ask that we not have six more weeks of winter; however, I know that You are good NO matter what! I know that when we look to You that no shadow of shame or fear will be found on our faces and that we will radiate your joy. Thank You Lord that Your wisdom lights up a person’s face and softens its harshness (Ecc 8:1). Lord, for those who are struggling with their health, I ask for Your grace and mercy. Lord God, for those who are going through an unforeseen challenge, I ask for Your presence to envelope them through it. For those Lord, who are just coming out of the storm, may they reflect on how awesome You are and how much they have learned, that they otherwise would have missed! Lord God, thank You for this reader/hearer. Thank You for their prayers and kindness toward me! Lord, may we continue to grow in our love, devotion and faithfulness to You in this new month. In Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.

Favoritism

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One of the greatest lies the enemy loves to heave at me is that I am not doing enough, I am not good enough and that God likes/loves everyone more than me. I know that is a lie and yet I allow it to render me completely ineffective and useless. It steals my joy, it paralyzes my walk with God and leads me to fear being replaced. I know that God is no respecter of persons, meaning he does not show partiality or favoritism but what exactly does that mean?!

In Hebrew (OT) the expression of not showing favoritism “refers literally to ‘the lifting up the face of another person,’ while in Greek (NT) the expression means to ‘receive the face’ of someone or to accept his or her external appearance as the real thing and to make an evaluation on that basis” (Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, p. 1839). In both the OT and NT God is impartial and without prejudice and His people should be/do the same.

This has me questioning my own motives. To whom am I showing favoritism or worse yet, who am I undervaluing based on appearances and/or differences? As much as I fear being replaced by God, this also translates to my relationships with people. I have always been concerned that I will be replaced or second best. Who in my path and yours as well knows that we favor someone else over them?

James 2 admonishes us to not show favoritism because God does not show favoritism. James’s message affirms me in that God will not replace me that He will deal with me and reward me as He sees fit; yet, my behavior in certain instances does not match the obedience God requires.

Peter in Acts 10:34 stressed that God shows no favoritism. Peter’s vision led him to the conclusion that God does not discriminate! There are no divisions between “clean” and “unclean” people from God’s Sovereign and Divine perspective. God does discriminate between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors but He NEVER discriminates on the basis of race or ethnic background. Believers who revere God and practice what is right are acceptable to Him (10:35).

Father God, it is so easy to believe lies that say we are not good enough, that we will be replaced or that You disapprove of us. Lord God, it is easy to spend time with and look favorably on people who are most like us. Lord God, I ask that You help us to be a people who are secure and confident in our identity and position in You. Lord God, thank You for Your grace and mercy! Thank You that You meet with us and convict us personally! Lord God, reveal our hearts to us. Where are we showing favoritism in ways that are not from You? Teach us Lord to be more like Jesus and it is in His Name I pray, Amen.