Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
My husband’s brother died today.
Having lived with a diagnosis of cancer for the last several months, this was an expected event.
Even though it was expected, our family could not really prepare for what it would feel like when that moment came.
At dusk this evening, my husband wanted to drive to a nearby area and take a walk.
As we did, we noticed the tall cross that stands on the property of a local church.
I stopped for a moment to photograph it.
A flood of emotions comes bursting forth when the finality of death is before us.
Yet, there is hope.
Hope brought to us by Jesus.
In the eleventh chapter of John, there is the account of Jesus’ conversation with a woman named Martha, who had just experienced the death of her brother, Lazarus.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
My husband’s brother will rise again.
He continues to live by having believed in Jesus.
Do you believe?
Daniel had been taken captive to live in a foreign land.
Although he was not at home anymore, his convictions remained the same.
Daniel was chosen with three other friends to be prepared to serve in this new place.
They were to be taught the language of Babylon and its literature by an official.
They were also going to be fed what was considered to be good food.
Food and wine right from the king’s table….
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. —Daniel 1:8-14
At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his friends looked healthier than the other young men. Because of this, they were allowed to eat only vegetables.
When we know what God wants for us, we do not need to wander from it.
If we are countered in any way, God is right there.
He can make a way, even in opposition.
A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life.
–Proverbs 13:7 The Message
What does it mean to be pretentious?
The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary states that the definition of pretentious is as follows:
“Having or showing the unpleasant quality of people who want to be regarded as more impressive, successful, or important than they really are.”
If we want to be regarded as more impressive than we really are, how much time and energy would it take to hopefully bring that about?
If we want to be regarded as more successful than we really are, how much would we have to work to constantly support that facade?
If we want to be regarded as more important than we really are, how many worthwhile opportunities would be lost while our attention was focused on maintaining the illusion of importance?
After awhile, if we were to look back, a great portion of our time (and our lives) would have been lost to deception.
Our lives might be characterized as empty.
Proverbs 13:7 in The Message reads,
“A pretentious, showy life is an empty life; a plain and simple life is a full life.”
If we live as who we are, and if our identity is in Christ as His follower, we have no need to be known as something that we are not.
We simply seek to be known as who we are–children of God, forgiven and free.
Now, that’s a full life….
It’s a perfect day, really.
The sky is clear and the temperature is mild.
Even though it is cold and wintry in many places at this time of year, in my own yard wild flowers are blooming and new, green leaves are sprouting from plants.
It was a very good day for a funeral, and that is where I have been this morning. The father of a very good friend passed away.
The service was encouraging as the pastor spoke of my friend’s father and the importance of having a relationship with God, our Heavenly Father.
After arriving home, I went about my day as usual. While pausing to look out my front door, I noticed the shadow of a small, barren tree on the walkway.
Immediately, I thought of this verse from the Bible:
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
God will never leave us.
He removes fear from our hearts.
He comforts us.
Even through the valley….
Walking with my friends in the garden, I came upon a beautiful camellia flower blooming.
Still cradling water droplets from the recent rain, its delicate, pink petals were layered in elegant, star-like formation.
There’s something curative and calming about strolling through a garden, pausing to appreciate the artistry that God has created in every design.
Fears and anxieties begin to ebb as we view each new expanse of beauty.
Psalm 34:4 reads,
“I sought the LORD and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
What better place to pray than in the quiet solitude of a garden of flowers?
Years ago, one of our son’s best friends paid for him to go skydiving as a gift.
Before he boarded the plane, an instructor spoke to him about the upcoming experience.
Our son was dressed in a special flight suit and given a parachute.
Although I was not there, I am sure he listened to the instructions about the parachute and everything else that was advised.
After all, who would dare to go skydiving without having any knowledge whatsoever about the parachute?
I was thinking about this earlier today.
People die all the time.
Most everyone dies before they reach 100 years old.
Only a few make it a little past that mark.
Yet, how many people inquire as to what will happen when they die?
How many people are concerned enough to look into it?
Taking the trip from this life to eternity is far more important than skydiving.
God has made known His plan for safe passage for those who die.
His plan was the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins and the offering of a new life with Him, now and forever.
Jesus became our “parachute” when we had nothing to save us from the fall to Hell.
Still, there are those who do not wish to hear of a safe passage.
They do not wish to hear about a parachute.
They desire no instructions from God about the trip we all must make.
There are some, though, who have heard His call for instruction.
They have listened intently about a safe passage.
They have decided that having a Savior is the only way to life after death.
What preparations have you made personally for your passage?
1 Corinthians 15:22 reads,
“Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”
There is a hospital in a nearby city about an hour’s drive from my home.
I have visited the hospital many times.
It is run by a Christian denomination.
Walking through the halls there are many encouraging works of art and scriptures displayed to be a comfort and a hope to those who are there.
We have all been lost in our sin–sick and in need of salvation.
In our weakness and sinfulness, Jesus will always be there.
Ready to comfort.
Ready to forgive.
Ready to give us hope…
A day or so ago, one of my son’s came up with something interesting.
He began thinking about what people think of God.
More exactly, he was thinking of who people think God is.
He posted this question on a social media site:
“I want to invite ALL my friends to write a VERY SHORT definition of “God” from your point of view. Whatever YOU think “God” is. Weather you believe in God or not.”
He received a long list of comments.
The question actually sparked quite a conversation between the two of us.
Now, I am thinking about what other people may define who God is.
In Revelation 22:13, we can read these words:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”
Whether you believe in God or not, would you please comment on this post and site your definition of God?
This will no doubt help the conversation between me and my son to continue.
Thank you so very much.
Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.
When your name is mentioned, what things come to mind for those that know you?
What things come to mind for those that know me?
It is not our responsibility to please others primarily.
It is more important to please God in our actions and words.
In doing so, we will become known for our choices.
Does God consider us to be bearers of good fruit or bad fruit?
Many years ago, as recorded in the Old Testament, the Israelites had to make a choice.
Who would they serve?
The true God?
The false gods of their ancestors?
Do you remember your childhood home?
Do you remember your grandparents’ homes?
Maybe even your great-grandparents’ homes?
Did they serve the LORD?
What legacy will you leave your children?
As for you and your house, who will you serve?
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.
What do I want to be controlled by?
Do I want death or do I want life and peace?
Each of us must make that choice.
Our Basset hound was not feeling at all well this morning.
Having had a very uncomfortable night, as well, I knew I had to take her to the veterinarian.
After waiting only a short time, we were called back to the exam room.
There, I noticed an x-ray illuminator on the wall.
I began to think….
It was there so that the doctor could clip an x-ray film on it and the light from it would make the images visible for inspection.
What if who we really are—our thoughts, emotions and memories—could be placed on a screen and made visible for inspection?
What would they look like?
Others look at us the same way we look at them–seeing the outward appearance.
At times, we are well acquainted with someone else and we have some idea of their true nature, yet we cannot really see all that they are.
God knows each of us, totally.
All our experiences.
All our feelings and emotions.
All our thoughts.
He doesn’t need a bright light in order to reveal our souls.
When God was instructing Samuel to go and anoint a new king from among the sons of a man named Jesse, Samuel looked at one of them and thought surely he was the one to be king– but God told him otherwise.
1 Samuel 16:7 says,
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
God knew the heart’s of each of Jesse’s sons, and He had selected one of them to be king.
God has not changed.
He knows our hearts, as well.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
While visiting a family member in a hospice house, I noticed a vase of crimson and cream colored flowers on the counter of the nurses station.
Delicate petals, bright with a glowing hue, giving a silent testimony of life and beauty.
For those who are in Christ Jesus, there is hope, because there is no longer any condemnation.
My friend found the little moth outside my front door when she was visiting a couple of weeks ago.
Impressed by its unusually striking appearance, she showed it to me.
I’m not sure if either of us had ever seen a moth like that one.
After doing some research, I found that we had been looking at a Giant Leopard Moth.
This one hadn’t made it to “giant” status yet, but it was still impressive.
As my friend held it in her hands, I photographed it.
Black and white with a bit of orange on the body, its appearance was quite dramatic.
The Bible tells us in Job 12:10,
“In His hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.”
God has made every creature on the earth.
Each one is a testimony to His greatness.
If it looks good for you, then it surely IS good for you, right?
Several weeks ago, I was walking along the beach and saw a beautiful sea creature on the sand.
If something is beautiful, then it must be good, right?
I recognized the creature for what it was, having witnessed its dangerous characteristics before.
It was a dead Portuguese Man of War.
A particularly poisonous jelly fish with venom-filled tendrils.
Since it was dead, there was no problem, right?
Years ago at the beach, one of our young sons, being curious and inquisitive, poked a dead Portuguese Man of War that was lying on the sand with his snorkel.
A few moments later, he decided to go out into the water for a swim.
Touching the part of his snorkel that had touched the jelly fish, he was suddenly in desperate pain.
I will probably remember those moments the rest of my life as they taught us both a valuable lesson.
The venom is still potent even AFTER the creature is dead.
True wisdom is wisdom that comes from God.
If we ask for His guidance in life, He will do just that—guide us.
Things will look good, but He will say it’s not for us.
Things will be beautiful, but He will tell us of the potential danger involved.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
What do we do when we see someone struggling in the water, possibly drowning?
Most of us–certainly nearly all of us–would try to help in some way and do it quickly.
Yell for help.
Find a lifeguard.
Throw out a life jacket.
Maybe even jump into the water ourselves to attempt a rescue.
We would do this not just for our families and loved ones, but even for strangers.
People we had never met.
Imagine the unthinkable scenario of a person in a boat taking notice of a struggling, drowning swimmer.
Amid the cries for help, the man in the boat doesn’t reach for the life ring to throw in.
He doesn’t consider jumping into the water to save the swimmer.
Instead, he shakes his head and calls out, “Didn’t you know that the currents were rough over there?
You shouldn’t have ever gone swimming by yourself, anyway!
It’s your own fault to be in the mess you’re in!
You should’ve been in a boat, like me!”
It’s horrible just to think about it, isn’t it?
It gets a lot worse if you think about the swimmer as being someone you love.
One of your children.
Yet, could this be how we think about others that don’t know about the saving grace of Jesus?
If we have found safety and forgiveness in Him, are we reluctant to help others when they are struggling with sin and its effects?
When people we see are drowning in life’s problems, how do we respond?
Do we call out (sometimes silently in our own minds), “Didn’t you know better than to…
get mixed up with drugs?
date those kind of people?
stay out all night?
take that job?
become an alcoholic?
You should never have done that!
It’s your own fault that you’re in the mess you’re in!”
How do we respond?
Do we try to help and do it quickly?
Do we call to others to assist in helping?
Do we throw out a life ring and tell them that there is a Savior who loves them?
Do we try to jump into the “water” ourselves and begin to really know and understand their problems, all the while pointing them to God?
What if it was your child, your parent or your spouse who was struggling?
Wouldn’t you want someone—anyone—to help?
Look out on the water around you.
Who’s out there?
How will you respond?
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.
Walking near a park area in the early morning hours, I noticed some trees—well, they used to be trees, or maybe they still were–but they hardly resembled trees anymore.
Having been absolutely overtaken by a growing vine, the trees were almost unrecognizable.
Instead, the tightly intertwining vines had taken over, creating a lush, green shroud.
The trunks and branches beneath this blanket are probably in danger of dying from the vines that hold them in bondage.
People are kind of like those trees.
Once sin came into the world, it brought death with it.
Sin and death have spread, covering humanity.
Jesus came to set us free from the bondage of sin that entangles us.
He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin.
Because of Him, those who believe are rescued from its heavy blanket of death, restored to new life, forever.
Sin came into the world through one person, and death came through sin. So death spread to everyone, because everyone sinned.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.
—1 Peter 5:7
Worry is a powerful force.
Worry can occupy your mind, stealing the space of wisdom and productive thought.
Worry can drive you to the corner and sit you there, removing you from meaningful activities.
Worry can stress your body, slowly robbing you of good health and fitness.
Worry can influence your attitude, coloring your choices with counterfeit hues.
Worry, in short, can take over your life–
if your let it.
What can battle such a controlling influence?
The difficult circumstances that worry hopes to feed upon must be brought to Him.
God cares for us and He is willing to give us His peace, exchanging worry for calm.
Click image to enlarge.
I have my great uncle’s Bible, published in 1896.
For him, it was a guiding light, I am sure.
Though tattered and worn, I cherish it, knowing that through the ages, God’s word in scripture has been alive for all people, proclaiming His love for eternity.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Years ago, one of my superiors at work gave me a card with this verse on it:
Gold there is, and rubies in abundance, but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.
It has become one of my favorite verses.
Two questions I have for myself:
Do others feel that my lips speak knowledge?