May 26 Snip Away, Lord!

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Photo by Laura Jostes

2 Samuel 9:1-11:27;  John 15:1-27;  Psalm 119:49-64;  Proverbs 16:1-3

“I am the true vine and my Father is the vinedresser.  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.

Abide in me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

I am the vine, you are the branches.  Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:1-5

* * * * *

So much exuberance!

So much growth

that takes place in Spring!

So much potential for endless blooms

forever fruit.

Greening plants sprawl

about the garden

untamed, reaching, striving

for more sunlight,

more earth to spread its roots

to claim as its own.

But, spread too thin,

too quickly, too far

plants lose their ability

to nourish,

to supply their

wandering branches

with enough nutrients

to sustain,

to produce.

The wise gardener knows this,

ignores the bursts of celebration

and gently,

calmly,

deliberately

steps into the garden

to tame the party,

to snip back into order

and guide the pulsing,

dancing plants

into productivity.

* * * * *

O Lord, may you do the same

with me.

Direct my energies, desires

and creative wanderings

back to you.

Use me as you will

to serve your purposes,

to bear witness to your

great mercy and love

in my life,

so that I may bear the Fruit of the Spirit’s

Life in me:

Love, joy, peace

patience, goodness, faithfulness,

gentleness and self-control.

May this fruit be abundantly evident

to the glory of your holy name!

In Jesus’ name I pray,

Amen.

* * * * *

“The plans of the heart belong to man but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

All the ways of man are pure in his own eyes,

but the Lord weighs the heat.

Commit your work to the Lord,

and your plans will be established.”

Proverbs 16:1-3

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March 16 Parable of the Canyon

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Photo by Laura Jostes

From the devotion book Streams In The Desert compiled by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman

“For our profit.”  Hebrews 12:10

In one of Ralph Conner’s books he tells a story of Gwen.  Gwen was a wild, willful lass, and one who had always been accustomed to having her own way.  Then one day she met with a terrible accident which crippled her for life.  She became very rebellious and in the murmuring state she was visited by the sky pilot, as the missionary among the mountaineers was termed.

He told her the parable of the canyon.  “At first there were no canyons, but only the broad, open prairie.  One day the Master of the prairie, walking over his great lawns, where were only grasses, asked the prairie, ‘Where are your flowers?’ and the prairie said, ‘Master, I have no seeds.’

“Then he spoke to the birds, and they carried seeds of every kind of flower and strewed them far and wide, and soon the prairie bloomed with crocuses and roses and buffalo beans and the yellow crowfoot and the wild sunflowers and the red lilies all summer long.  Then the Master came and was well pleased; but he missed the flowers he loved best of all, and he said to the prairie: ‘Where are the clematis and the columbine, the sweet violets and wildflowers, and all the ferns and flowering shrubs?’

“And again he spoke to the birds, and again they carried all the seeds and scattered them far and wide.  But, again, when the Master came he could not find the flowers he loved best of all, and he said:

“‘Where are those my sweetest flowers?’ and the prairie cried sorrowfully:

“‘O Master, I cannot keep the flowers, for the winds sweep fiercely, and the sun beats upon my breast, and they wither up and fly away.’

“Then the Master spoke to the lightening, and with one swift blow, the lightening cleft the prairie to the heart.  And the prairie rocked and groaned in agony, and for many a day moaned bitterly over the black, jagged, gaping wound.

“But the river poured its waters through the cleft, and carried down deep black mold, and once more the birds carried seeds and strewed them in the canyon.  And after a long time the rough rocks were decked out with soft mosses and trailing vine, and all the nooks were hung with clematis and columbine, and great elms lifted their huge tops high up into the sunlight, and down about their feet clustered the low cedars and balsams, and everywhere the violets and windflower and maidenhair grew and bloomed, till the canyon became the Master’s favorite place for rest and peace and joy.”

Photo by Laura George

Photo by Laura George

Then the sky pilot read to her: “The fruit–I’ll read ‘flowers’–of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness–and some of these grow only in the canyon.”

“Which are the canyon flowers?” asked Gwen softly, and the pilot answered:  “Gentleness, meekness, longsuffering; but though the others, love, joy, peace bloom in the open, yet never with so rich a bloom and so sweet a perfume as in the canyon.”

For along time Gwen lay quite still, and then said wistfully, while her lips trembled: “There are no flowers in my canyon but only ragged rocks.”

“Some day they will bloom, Gwen, dear; the Master will find them, and we, too, shall see them.”

Beloved, when you come to your canyon, remember!

Lord God, in the midst of canyons deep where it seems the sun’s light is weakest, remind us that it is still there and it is enough to nurture beautiful things in our lives.  For you, O Lord, reach down to us with your never ending love and fill us with your life giving Spirit.  To you we give our thanks and praise!  For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

October 9 They Got ‘The Look’

Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Jeremiah 12:1-14:10;  1 Thessalonians 1:1-2:9;  Psalm 79:1-13;  Proverbs 24:30-34

“And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.  For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.  For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”  1 Thessalonians 1:6-10

Watching “The Voice” earlier this week I became hopeful that maybe if I took the advertising advice to check out Kohls and get “The Look”–the very same clothes bedecking one of the Voice contestants–then maybe, just maybe….I would be able to sing better. (Hope springs eternal!)

Pretty silly, I know.

Yet, from today’s verses in 1 Thessalonians, I am encouraged and assured that when I follow the example of Paul and of other devout Christians like the Thessalonians, my imitation will bear fruit, just as their imitation of Christ in whom they believed and confessed, bore fruit.

Lord God, grant that your example in Jesus Christ be my sole image for imitation today.  May the fruit of the Spirit be evident in my life that others may see a different way of living–a life of faith in You–in me.  I ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

January 31 Fruitless or Faithful

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Image by Matt Gruber

Exodus 12:14-13:16;  Matthew 20:29-21:22;  Psalm 25:16-22;  Proverbs 6:12-15

“Early in the morning, as he was on his way back into the city, he was hungry.  Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it but leaves.  Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!”  Immediately the tree withered.  When the disciples saw this, they were amazed.  “How did the fig tree wither so fast?” they asked.  Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but you can also say to this mountain, “Go throw yourself into the sea” and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”  Matthew 21:18-21

Jesus expected figs to be on the fig tree.  He expected His Father’s House–the temple in Jerusalem–to be filled with faithful priests serving and nurturing the faith of those within.  

Instead he found a fruitless tree and fruitless priests in an empty temple.

Both left him hungry.

Judgement came to the fig tree and judgement fell on the Jerusalem temple in 70 A.D. when it was destroyed. Fruitless trees and fruitless temples serve no purpose.

Jesus knew that and that’s why he allowed himself to be hung on a cross.  His Body and Blood would “feed” those who believed in Him.  We are now His temple through faith.  We bear the fruit of the Spirit dwelling within us–love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

We can tell the mountain of fear, anxiety, joblessness, alienation, loneliness, sickness…to go jump into the ocean!

We can bear fruit for Him.

Lord God, preserve us in the one true faith–faith that believes and confesses that Jesus is the only Way, Truth and Life.  May we bear fruit in word and deed.  We trust you with all that weighs on our hearts and our minds this day.  We trust you to move mountains!  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

 

 

 

August 8 Me

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Photo by Aaron Burden

 

Ezra 7:1-8:20;  1 Corinthians 4:1-21;  Psalm 30:1-12;  Proverbs 20:28-30

 

“IF the praise of man elates me and his

blame depresses me;

if I cannot rest under misunderstanding

without defending myself;

if I love to be loved more than to

love,

to be served more than

to serve,

then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

~Amy Carmichael

Lord God, have mercy on me when I think of me, me, me.  Forgive me for my self-centeredness and self serving ways.  Empty me of me.  Let the love of your son Jesus fill me and may the Holy Spirit bear its fruit in me–your love, your peace, your joy, your goodness, your mercy, your kindness, your self-control.  Turn me to you.  In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

May 9 Quizzing You

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I Samuel 5:1-7:17;  John 6:1-21;  Psalm 106:13-21;  Proverbs 14:32-33

“…and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.”  John 6:2

Jesus’ disciples were learning–learning more and more each day they spent with their Teacher.  Miracle after miracle.  Cure after cure.  Healing after healing.  Deliverance after deliverance.

What could their Teacher NOT do?

What did the disciples really know?   Really believe about Jesus?

Jesus put them to the test.

“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ John 6:5

Brain freeze.

Memory erase.

Panic.

“Philip answered him, ‘Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.'”  6:6

Looking only at their own resources and not to Jesus, the disciples seemed to be at a complete loss.

Though not completely…a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish was found.

That was all Jesus needed to feed five thousand men. (five thousand men!!!!)

He took what they had, thanked God for it and passed it around.

It was more than enough.

Is God quizzing you?

Whatever your situation you have more than enough because your God has more than enough!  He’ll use whatever you offer up to Him.

Give thanks.

Pass around what you have to meet the needs of those around you.

Pass around—

 Love

  Compassion

     A helping hand

A dollar or two

  A kind word

     Forgivenss

        Half hour of your time

 A hug

   A shoulder to cry on

What you have might not seem like enough, but with God it’s more than enough!

Lord God, when you give us a pop quiz, testing our faith, may we remember that with you “all things are possible.”  Grant us grace to meet your challenge and the needs of others around us, to give of ourselves and to trust you to supply what is needed.  In you we have an endless supply of the Spirit’s fruit–love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.  May we use them for the good of others and to your Glory.  In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.”      Hebrews 13:20-21

Jan. 31 Dried Up

Exodus 12:14-13:16;  Matthew 20:29-21:22;  Psalm 25:16-22;  Proverbs 6:12-15

 “In the morning as he was returning to the city, he (Jesus) became hungry.  And seeing a fig tree by the wayside he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves.  And he said to it ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’ And the fig tree withered at once.”  Mt. 21:18-19

 Jesus was heading back to Jerusalem where on the previous day he had received a king’s welcome by the multitudes–and had been scoffed at by the chief priests and scribes–the authorities on all things “of God”, “Holy”.

 Little children had praised Jesus, that day, as they watched him give sight to the blind and heal the limbs of the lame.

 Little children had faith–they believed.  The temple leaders did not.

 Jesus perceived the withered spiritual condition of the religious hierarchy and made a visual point by zapping the fruitless fig tree of its life–a foreshadowing of what would befall the Holy City in 70 A.D.

 Jesus told his disciples who witnessed the withering, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea’ it will happen.  And whatever you ask in prayer you will receive if you have faith.”  Mt. 21: 20-22

Faithful or faithless.

Fruitful or Withered.

Gracious Lord, as ones that you have called into faith, may we be found fruitful–leading lives that reflect your life in us.  May we be ready to help our neighbor, pray for healing, speak Your truth in love and forgive those who wrong us.

 May we bear the fruit of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control this day.  For Jesus’ Sake. Amen