Thursday, January 18, 2018

Renew Your Mind

With a new year rolling right along to the middle of the first month, I feel like I have catching up to do already. I talked about the time element on Monday but I found a couple of verses that spoke profoundly to me about renewing my mind. Isn't this a good time to contemplate how I look at living? What shapes and molds my thoughts? It is a good time to renew my mind.

What goes into my mind every day is probably such a vast amount I wouldn't believe it if God sent
Amarylis Week 3
me a print-out. Consider the conversations I hear, the TV I watch (okay, I probably shouldn't be watching Criminal Minds...), the Facebook entries I see, and the books I read. You could probably add the music I listen to, or the video games you play.

Are you getting the highest grade of fuel for your brain? Is it octane, unleaded, ethanol blend, or super premium? Lately, some of the Facebook postings have been diesel - gummy, jelled-up Iowa winter diesel.

I noticed those negative or even worse - profane posts were ruining my mind fuel. And all the miracle-promising ads, targeting me and my desires, were leaving me tempted and angry. So, I took a hiatus from Facebook. Not 100% but reading only the posts from friends who share my mindset.

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will," (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

Or as Paul writes in Ephesians: " be made new in the attitude of your minds," (Ephesians 4:23 NIV).

If your mind needs a little renewing, as mine does, I'd suggest heading directly to the Bible. Anything you read there will be blessed by God. His Word is sweet refreshment for the brain. You'll find hope! And encouragement! Promises meant for you and truth that no one can deny! It is my rock solid foundation where I am always sure-footed.

"Finally, brothers (and sisters), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things," (Philippians 4:8 NIV).

Monday, January 15, 2018

Time, Time, Time

It is January 15, 2018. Here I sit, feeling a little overwhelmed about everything I have on my plate. How can that be - I am retired. Tired, yes. Yet, I am feeling better about myself as I strive forward on my journey to grow in Christ.

By the end of the month I will be doing three Bible studies. It doesn't sound so bad as I write it, but the stack of three books and the study questions looks like a lot of concentrated study time. That's a good thing for my soul and my faith life - but there are other things to do, too. We are checking out a fitness center that has water aerobics so I've been trying to do that everyday of the free trial. That is good for my body. I have my first editing project arriving in a few days. And I have blogs to write. That is good for my mind to practice and use my knowledge of English and writing to help another writer and hopefully, my readers.

I also have a house to clean; prayers to pray; clothes to wash; snow to shovel (probably not, John does that - thankfully), a quilt to start and make; garbage to take out; bed to make; dishes to wash; ironing to do; pictures to take; grandchildren to love; letters to write; crosses to add to my wall of crosses; healthy meals to cook; Growth Group to host in February (I'll have to clean); sisters to call; groceries to shop for; plans to make; the Bible to read...

How did retirement get so busy? To be honest I rarely clean and several of those 'to-do's' will probably not get done. John would tell me to quit watching my soap opera (echoes of my mother). Even though I record it now so I can fit it into 45 minutes by skipping the ads?... I waste more hours watching favorites may surprise you: Blue Bloods; Criminal Minds; The Voice; Fixer Upper; and the local and national news on KCCI. I browse through magazines and catalogues while I listen to TV - multitasking?

When I talk about time I instantly turn to Ecclesiastes. Solomon uses the first two chapters telling about things in his life that seem meaningless. It is an interesting read. But, I always turn to Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV to read what my Bible calls, Solomon's "general observations."

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace," (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 NIV).

This was one of Mama's favorite scriptures and now is one of mine. The Byrds even used portions of this scripture in their song, "Turn, Turn, Turn".

Lord, help me use my time productively each day. Guide my actions so I am doing Your will for my life. I want to be more like Jesus every day.  Amen.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Beginning A Ministry

Ministry is defined as the act of serving, in my American Heritage dictionary.

Jesus came to earth knowing His ministry. It was foretold 500-600 years before by the prophet Jeremiah. Along with others, God gave Jeremiah the important task of proclaiming the word of God and sharing His prophecies with the people of Judah. But it wasn't easy. Oh, Jeremiah obeyed God faithfully, but when he spoke, no-one listened. By human standards of success Jeremiah was a failure. However, by God's standards Jeremiah was deeply loved for fulfilling His will.
Week Two Amaryllis

"The time is coming," declares the Lord, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the Lord. "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more," (Jeremiah 31:31-34 NIV & Hebrews 8:8-12 NIV).

Jesus fulfilled this and many other prophecies. His purpose in life was to walk with us and teach us the Word of God so we would surrender ourselves to God and believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior.

"But Jesus' priestly work far surpasses what these other priests do, since he's working from a far better plan. If the first plan--the old covenant--had worked out, a second wouldn't have been needed. But we know the first was found wanting, because God said, 

"Heads up! The days are coming when I'll set up a new plan for dealing with Israel and Judah. I'll throw out he old plan I set up with their ancestors when I led them by the hand out of Egypt. They didn't keep their part of the bargain, so I looked away and let it go. This new plan I'm making with Israel isn't going to be written on paper, isn't going to be chiseled in stone; This time I'm writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts. I'll be their God, they'll be my people. They won't go to school to learn about me, or buy a book called 'God in Five Easy Lessons'. They'll all get to know me first-hand, the little and the big, the small and the great. They'll get to know me by being kindly forgiven, with the slate of their sins forever wiped clean." (Hebrews 8:6-12 MSG).

Jeremiah had a ministry. Jesus had a ministry. We each have a ministry, too. It is our purpose, just as it was for the prophet Jeremiah, and our Savior Jesus Christ.

My ministry, my act of serving is to use my life to help others learn, grow in faith, and believe in Jesus Christ. I hope one day I will hear God say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21 NIV).

Monday, January 8, 2018

Jesus Turns Thirty

What were you doing when you turned 30 years old? For me, 30 was a devastating birthday. While I watched my friends and acquaintances with their college degrees and successful careers, I hit that glowing number and felt like a real loser. I was in a deep depression because I felt I had nothing to show for my 30 years, except my two sons and a solid marriage. I know, I know, those are wonderful life treasures, but I was selfishly thinking about 'me' and what a failure I had become. The magic number of 30 arrived and I had not.

The Bible quickly skips through Jesus' life following His Holy birth in Bethlehem. We are shown only two instances in His childhood when Jesus is taken to the temple to be consecrated to the Lord, and again when His parents took him to Jerusalem for Passover and Jesus stays behind, studying  with the teachers in the temple courts. At age 12, Jesus was already showing a unparalleled understanding of the scriptures - far beyond a normal pre-teenager.

For 18 years we have no description of Jesus' life in the scriptures but that all changes when Jesus is baptized by John. "And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased," (Luke 3:21b-22 NIV).

Jesus patiently waited for His time, as determined and revealed by God. I wasn't so patient when I was 30. It was nearly 10 more years before God opened the doors for me to pursue the college education that I so desired. Then He opened the door for me to have a career in writing that I longed for. God has blessed me beyond measure.

"Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" (Isaiah 30:18 NIV).

So what are you waiting for today? Have patience - for God will give you the desires of your heart!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Winter Beauty

January has made quite a statement in the first few days, continuing the bitter cold of late December.

We've found new winter olympic sports to add to our list: truck diesel freezing up; shoveling snow in below zero temperatures; adding heaters to the sheep shed so they stay warm; forcing a grandpuppy out to do her job when her tiny feet get frozen; bundling up in boots, insulated coats, and hoods to prevent frostbite.

Seems like I'm on a constant search to find the gloves. Mostly I stay inside, like a spoiled brat. I've gone into hibernation only without the sleep. I get bundled up under blankets and read.

But, today I'm going to focus on the beauty winter brings. The sunrises and sunsets have been amazing; so full of color and brilliance. Yesterday there were sun dogs framing the sun with brilliant pinks spreading their glow across the snow covered ground. And the 'super moon' has been amazing
as it rises in the east. Huge and full, it rose quickly to light up the surroundings as if it was day. The weatherman said there would be another one at the end of the month!

I love the snow blanket. Sparkling like diamonds, twinkling like stars, covering the dreary dormant grass and plants and adding a beautiful accent to the evergreen trees. I saw the first rabbit tracks through our yard, and watched deer stand in a snow-coated field twice in the same location, wondering what they were finding to eat - probably a neighbor's trees or bushes. There are birds searching for food - delighting in a full bird feeder. Even as I drove home in the snow on Saturday night, I couldn't help but love the huge snow flakes falling so peacefully.

God promised Noah that He would never again destroy what covers the earth until the day Jesus returns, and the change of seasons is our reminder of that.

"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease," (Genesis 8:22 NIV).

I'm thankful for our God whose creativity gives us such beauty to enjoy; even when our toes and fingers are nearly frozen.

Lord, open our eyes to the day-to-day beauty that surrounds us. Touch our hearts with the loveliness that accompanies the cold. We are blessed every day; help us remember to give You alone praise and glory. Amen.

Monday, January 1, 2018

And He Will Be Our Peace

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you," (John 14:27a NIV).

A new year is before us. It's a wiped clean whiteboard, an empty calendar, an unmarked journey, and 365 days of experiences and opportunities ready to fill a journal and a heart with trust in the Lord. And peace. The peace that Jesus brought to us by His birth in a stable in Bethlehem.

What does peace mean to you this year? Peace can be defined as a state of calm, serenity, freedom from strife or discord, or harmony in relationships. However, the peace that Jesus brought to humankind was even greater than those. The reason Jesus had to come was to be a bridge between God and us. We were estranged from God by our sin. Someone, Only Jesus, had to come and pay the price for our sins and make us clean and pure so God could relate to us again.
Amaryllis Bulb on Jan. 1, 2018

Because of Jesus we are able to have a personal relationship with God without fear of His judgement. Jesus wiped away our guilt and the discord our sinfulness created. Jesus Christ's peace fills us with peaceful assurance even when our world continues to have wars. Our Savior Jesus Christ came to bring us peace. And one day, when Jesus returns to the earth again, we believers are positive that there will be no more war, no fighting, no killing, no more painful disagreements or misunderstandings.

"He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken," (Micah 4:3-4 NIV).

It is a new year: 2018. Jesus will return one day; one year; at a time we do not know. Until that time we can experience the peace of Jesus within us, even though we see wars continuing around us. Jesus is our peace and we can claim that peace of love and forgiveness as our own. That is how we can get through 2018.

"And he will be their peace," (Micah 5:5a NIV).

Thursday, December 28, 2017

We, Too, Shall Seek Him

As we pack up our Christmas treasures for another year, it is good to reflect on the rest of the story of Jesus Christ, born in a stable. I don't hurry to take down all of our Christmas. I'm just not ready to move on yet. I want to linger around the Christ Child. Everyone loves babies and I'm sure Christ was the best baby ever. I want to hold Him and gaze upon His Holy face a while. Too soon He will be grown up and gone.

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him." When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'" "Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him." After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route." (Matthew 2:1-12 NIV).

The wise men traveled thousands of miles in search of the Messiah. They saw a star placed in the sky by God and they followed it to the east, possibly from Parthia, a country second in power to Rome. It is suggested the Magi had traveled for a year or more, following the star. They must have known the Old Testament predictions or studied astrology or received a message directly from God, to begin such a lengthy search. It was an important journey for them. They were on a mission and they weren't going to give up until they found Jesus.

After stopping to pay respects to Herod in Jerusalem they traveled on to Bethlehem to find the Messiah, again led by the star. They brought with them treasures worthy only of a King: precious gold for a worthy Ruler, incense for the highest Priest or Deity, and myrrh - a burial spice for a Savior. All signs they knew more than they revealed. They were wise men, indeed.

As they approached Bethlehem they were filled with joy and presented their gifts to the Child. But as they began to leave, they were warned by God to change their travel plans. They avoided Herod in Jerusalem and took a different route home.

As believers, we too, are called to leave behind our old sinful ways and pursue a holy pathway by following Jesus' light and leading. Let us remember the Magi and their persistent journey and take up our own mission to find Jesus once and for all. Let us bring along the precious gifts that only we can offer. We, too, shall seek Him.