God's Garden

May 26, 2009

Sunday morning I was watering our garden and flowers before church and as I was doing this I began to think about all the elements in the garden. There are so many answers to life’s questions in the simplest of things.

As I watered I thought about how I was watering things and what my reasoning was behind my methods. Why did I water some things and not others? Why did I use gentle pressure with the hose on some things and use full force elsewhere? I thought about how God deals with us and I wondered if many of his motives behind his methods were similar.

I looked at the various plants that I had placed around the house and the Lord began to speak to me about people as compared to certain plantings. There was so much there right in front of me.

Some plants were scrawny with just a few leaves; they had just been planted and needed extra attention. Those I watered gently. Some plants were sturdy but had been gnarled by the recent cold snap; I also watered them with extra care. There were those trapped under the ground so I had to use a forceful spray to penetrate the hardened soil to allow the water to reach them. They needed to be softened, nourished and awakened from their dormant sleep.

I could see every phase of my life in the canvas of my garden. There was so much there I don’t think I can put it all into words. Some plants were full of blooms and in others I could see the potential to be full of blooms. I have this wisteria plant that has been growing for some time but has never bloomed.

It made me think of the fig tree in Mark 11; Jesus cursed it and caused it to wither because it didn’t bear fruit. My wisteria isn’t doing what it was meant to do and sometimes we as people don’t do what we are meant to do so God prunes us as I will do to my plant. It has all these tendrils reaching out every which way that are unproductive and could become a menis if they are allowed to continue.

Sometimes we don’t understand why things happen in our lives but the Gardener is in control and he prunes us and waters us with different pressures to cause us to flourish and produce glory for him.

Sometimes like the plants that are established in my landscaping, the more mature don’t need constant watering. These plants have been through several seasons and have learned how to trust the Gardener for what they need, they have learned to dig deep into the soil and survive the heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter.

I am so amazed at what creation will tell us about the character of our Creator God and his ways if we will just take time to observe it. We are all at different seasons and growth cycles in our walk with the Master Gardener and there will be times where we are watered well every day or denied water or pruned or allowed to grow and expand all for his glory.

He is the one who controls it all and it is for his glory and he holds it all together ...we are just different varieties, planted in a community plot of land and our Gardener looks after each one of us weeding out those things that are detrimental.

There are several scriptures that I came across this morning in my study of God’s garden such as Genesis 2:8, Job 8:8-19, Song of Solomon 4:12, 16, Isaiah 5:7, 51:3, 58:11, and 61:3, 11, and Jeremiah 31:12. There are many other places in the bible where a garden is mentioned but the following one caught my attention and I found it very appropriate as I thought about it…

John 19: 41(NIV) “At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid.” Jesus was laid to rest and resurrected from the midst of a garden…how beautiful, how appropriate, how loving and thoughtful is our God! Glory to his name!

Life.....Death... NEW LIFE!

May 19, 2009

Yesterday morning I got a call from the memorial company that Danni’s stone had been set so I finished ironing and got my shoes. I had loaned our son my van so I didn’t have a way over to the graveyard to see it. I had a thought and within minutes I was making my way down the road on my daughters bicycle.

Danni is just across the field in the neighboring graveyard so I thought it would be a nice ride. I was struck by the quiet as I rode along; I couldn’t even hear the gears as I peddled. It was a nice day and soon I was turning into the little lane that bordered the cemetery.

I rode past markers that were old and new to the spot where we had laid her to rest. I took a picture of it and admired the workmanship with my fingers. There is something that happens when you see the grave marker in its place. It’s almost like a “period” at the end of the sentence of life. Everything is done and over with, complete.

Later that evening our family drove over to see Danni and bring her some solar “disco” lights as we called them that flash red, green and blue. She always did love to dance and she loved color, especially red, so I thought that would be appropriate for her little plot of land. We pounded them into the ground and checked them to make sure they were even.

Every time I go there to visit I think about 1Thessalonians 4:16 “For the Lord will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” I can envision her coming forth from the ground with her new body that is imperishable ready to live and reign with him wherever he so desires.

What an awesome hope I have, what an awesome promise to someday see her and all our loved ones who have passed be raised to newness of life. Maybe I’ll be raised as well if the Lord takes me home between now and then.
The grave is not the end, but the beginning. And so I wait patiently, as we all do. Come quickly Lord Jesus, come quickly!
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Hope for Dung

May 14, 2009

Lately, the Lord has been speaking to me about having a bible study and I’ve been dragging my feet. What if no one comes? God, I don’t know how to do that. A thousand other excuses come to mind. To be honest , I know this is God’s direction to me but the “what if’s” and the “I’m the least likely ones” have been holding me back and I’ve been plain miserable that’s how I know for sure it’s God.

When I’m not obedient God makes life a walk in the mud, he bogs me down until I can’t go anymore. When I was obedient and repented and took the first steps to organize things the ground became firm again.

Recently, I’ve been reading Zechariah 3. It’s an interesting scene that the Lord is revealing to the prophet and God has touched my heart with it. Many times we don’t see our sin in the way God sees it but his heart of compassion loves to cleanse us and give us freedom from the sin that takes us captive.

In Zechariah chapter 3, God shows Zechariah the man who is the high priest at that time named Joshua standing before God with the Angel of the Lord on one side and the Accuser (Satan) on the other. This scene is played out in each one of our lives, we all stand condemned….until…

Zech 3:1-7 (CJBV) reads as follows… “He showed me Joshua the cohen hagadol (high priest) standing before the angel of Adonai (my Lord) with the Accuser (Satan) standing at his right to accuse him. Adonai said to the Accuser, “May Adonai rebuke you, Accuser! Indeed, may Adonai, who has made Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) his choice, rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”

Joshua was clothed in garments covered with dung; and he was standing before the angel, who said to those standing in front of him, “Take those filthy garments off of him.”

Then to him he said, “See, I am taking your guilt away. I will clothe you in fine robes.” I said, “They should put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and gave him fine robes to wear, while the angel of Adonai stood by. Then the angel of Adonai gave Joshua this warning:

“Adonai-Tzva’ot (the Lord of heavens armies, the Lord of Hosts) says this: ‘If you will walk in my ways, obey my commission, judge my house and guard my courtyards; then I will give you free access among these who are standing here.”

What a beautiful picture of salvation, we stand before the Lord Almighty covered in dung. This was the high priest may I remind you. If any man wouldn’t need to be cleansed from guilt and shame surely it would be him but that is not the case. This was God’s chosen man to represent the people in His presence and he needed to be forgiven, delivered and cleansed.

Here he stands dirty and stinky before God, Satan his Accuser and the angel of the Lord. I love the imagery of a “burning stick snatched from the fire” this is so true of all of us. It doesn’t matter who you are or what “office” you hold we are all this way until we invite Jesus into our lives and he gives the order for us to be cleansed and fitted with fine robes.

I love how Zechariah chimes in and says, “put a clean turban on his head” and God obliges him. This is another picture of Jesus the Messiah that covers us and makes us clean and white.

Then Joshua is given a warning and a promise that if he walks in the ways of the Lord, obeys the commission given him and attends to the needs of God’s people and God’s house that he will be given free access to those he is standing among.

I was so encouraged by this today that God sees our sin and hears the accusations but his heart of compassion and righteousness says in Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together,”says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

But even this scripture contains a promise and a warning as it goes on in verse 19 “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (NIV)

God is compassionate but he demands obedience.

Lord, thank you that when I stand before you covered with the dung of my sin you cleanse me give me fine robes and free access to you by the blood of your son Jesus. Thank you that you defend me against the Accuser of my soul. Amen.

Pottery with a Purpose!

May 7, 2009

Recently I went on a trip with Atlee’s fourth grade class to Sauder Villiage in Ohio. It is place to learn about how the pioneers lived. We had a beautiful day with some beautiful people. I really enjoyed myself and Atlee did too. It was good for us to spend the day together.

We saw the many ways that people used to survive when there weren’t such things as modern conveniences. I was amazed at their ingenuity, everything they had was used in some way and nothing was wasted. They made their own nails, pottery, brooms and other items . They gathered herbs for healing and seasoning their food. They made everything they needed.

I was struck by the way these items were made by loving hands and it was a great teaching opportunity for Atlee and I to see played out in real life how the Master uses heat and pressure , force, forging and tension to mold us into the child of God he wants us to be, changing us into the very image of his Son.

Watching the potter gently raise the walls of his drinking tumbler project reminded me of Isaiah 64:8 which says, “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay , you are the potter; we are the work of your hand.”

It also reminded me of many other places in the bible where we are referred to as clay. The process of molding and shaping and smoothing and firing goes on in our lives day after day until we reach the desire of our Master.

Lately, I’ve felt dry and far from the Lord but as I remember the process I observed in the making of the tumbler I am encouraged. When the tumbler was finished the potter took it off the wheel to sit by itself and dry a bit before putting it into the kiln. Then to harden in the fire only to come out and sit alone again to cool in order that it would be useful to someone.

I feel like that tumbler, quietly sitting and drying or maybe cooling so as to hold the shape that the Master has made me to be.

If you’ve been going through a dry time, be encouraged, it’s all part of the necessary process and God hasn’t left you, he’s preparing you to be a vessel of honor to be used to bring a thirst quenching drink to someone else.

Thank you, Jesus, for your encouragement to me today…it isn’t that I’ve done something wrong or that you are angry with me but that you are allowing me to dry and cool for a purpose. Wherever I am in the process let me be effectively used for your Master plan. Amen.

Sam and Scrappy

Matt’s cousin Sam Paulus has been a mentor of ours for quite some time. We’ve had many in depth discussions with him about our Lord for many years and from time to time I’ve invited him to share his thoughts with you. The following is part 1 of a letter that he wrote to us so that you, the readers, could become acquainted with him.

I was born in Ligonier, IN 27 miles S/E of South Bend. My father died in 1994, his loss was a hard thing for me. His family came from Germany and intermarried Cherokee tribe during their migration. Dad met mom in the service as they were both in the military.

My mother just passed away last November and I will miss her. She was of Mexican decent. Her father came from Mexico, graduated from the University of Mexico and was a Leiutenent in the Mexican Army.

An interesting fact about my family was learned when my mother passed away. My grandfather, who was an orphan, was a Jew and had escaped the Holocaust. We had never known these facts but learned them at my mother’s funeral.

He fled to Mexico and took on a different religion and new background. My mother's sister told us that my grandfather told her these things in secrecy when he had stayed with them one time and she had kept his secret to herself. She told us that there were times that he would try to get his brothers and sisters to come to America from Germany so that they could be together.

I was 48 years old this April and I live with my wife, Patsy, daughter Victoria (20) and son David (17) in Texas not far from Houston.

I came down south when I was 17 years old. I finished School in Port Arthur, Texas and lived with my grandfather and mom's brother during that time. I was in a car accident and hit a semi that pulled out in front of me and it set me back some in school so I came down south and went to night school and high school so I could graduate in the same year as other students my age in 1972.

Sometime later I met my wife and we were married, I was saved when I was young and Patsy is a believer as well. We know that God is preparing us for future work and so we hold our home and other possessions with an open hand because both of us realize that there is more to life with God than holding on to a house and we don’t want anything to keep us from following his will.

So, we both made it known to the Lord that wherever he wanted us we were willing to be and our desire is that he uses us sufficiently. We wanted him to know this house would not anchor us down. I realize that we may never move but God has our heart and we will go if he says go.

I experienced a refreshing of God’s Spirit some years ago and so much has happened to me since that time and I’ve even seen miracles. I remember a time when I was seeing a powerful move of God at a steel company where I was working. Guys were coming up to me asking for prayer and getting back into church. God was calling them to a work in church for his purposes.

I am so amazed and astounded when I think of things that took place there. One of the men was a man named “Scrappy” who had a weakness for alcohol. For some reason he started coming up to me and he began to spend time with me. One night I had a deep burden of prayer for him and I prayed fervently.

I remember looking at the clock when I started praying and it was 1am and a powerful presence of God overtook me while I was in prayer for him. When I got done praying, it felt like I had been praying for 3 or 4 minutes but when I looked at the clock it said 5:30 am. I said out loud, "Lord, where have I been?" I went to bed and fell asleep instantly and the next thing I knew Patsy was waking me and said, "Scrappy is here," it was the same guy I had been praying for, why was he here?

I proceeded to tell her to have him come back later. I wanted to sleep. But she said, "Get up!” and it seemed like lightning hit me and I jumped out of bed in obedient form. In the kitchen over coffee he was just sitting there. Now, I know this guy and in 6 hours of work he can't hold his hands straight out and hold them still and he laughs on account of their shaking so bad, he can’t go without a drink.

The Spirit of God spoke to me and said, "You be careful with him." Now, I didn't know how to really take what the Lord meant by that but after it was all over I understood fully. The Lord put the right words in my mouth. It reminded me of how I depended on God when I was preaching over the radio in my early years. I realized the presence of God was so strong in and on me. It felt like electricity in me. Then I looked at Scrappy and saw the same power moving on him.

The Lord wanted me to see him deal with Scrappy. He wanted me to see that if I said things out of the way it would ruined the whole situation. I saw the Spirit of God compelling him. Later he told me that as he was leaving our house in his truck he said, "Lord, I want to feel your presence that Sam is talking about, just a little bit though."

He told me that God did not deny him and His presence moved upon him and he went home with such a powerful presence all over him and he was trembling and sweating in bed. Come to find out God had burned all that alcohol out of him and healed him. He claimed to have great pain in his sides and at work I would see him in the tool room all doubled up in pain. He had been to the doctors and all. Pain was non-stop in his sides. Scrappy thought maybe it might be liver damage or something due to his drinking and God healed him of that too.

I was astounded, I can't begin to tell you how his testimony has effected many people especially school friends who grew up with him. Two of his friends were our bosses at work and I recall them telling Scrappy one day that it wasn’t the alcohol that was his problem but his nature. But God has established a greater nature for us if we ask for it and respond to him.

All Scrappy did was to yield himself to God. The next day his friends just stood there like they were watching some big car accident; they were in shock over the changes they saw in Scrappy. His mom and dad were very knowledgeable teachers and people of the scriptures and even they were amazed at the changes they had seen in their son.

Scrappy told me later that they were at a local restaurant eating and his mother asked what he had been doing. He told her that he stays home praying and reading his Bible and that he quit his drinking and when he said that his pop, as he calls him, bathed his white shirt with the tea he was drinking!

I thank God for Scrappy and his healing and I want you to know that this can be a reality in your life as well. The bible says that God doesn’t play favorites…we are all his favorites and he treats us all the same. If you want to experience the loving presence of God today just open your heart to him and tell him you’re a sinner and that you want to know him. Ask him to come into your heart and let your life be changed like old Scrappy’s life was.

I promise if you are sincere and your request comes from your heart that God won’t let you down. Romans 10:9-10 says, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with the heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”