This is an excerpt from A Gardener Looks at the Fruits of the Spirit by W. Phillip Keller:
…we must pause briefly and reflect on God’s view of the absolute necessity for fruit production in the lives of His people. On a number of occasions our Lord made it abundantly clear to His hearers that the final criteria by which His own were known was fruitfulness. “You will know them by their fruits.”
…[God] comes to us seeking for the fruits, the fragrant attributes of His own careful cultivation in our characters. Sometimes He is distinctly disappointed. There is no fruitage. Or if there is, it is sparse and sickly… On other occasions there is simply no crop at all. Why? Because basically there are such things as non-productive soils and marginal land.
Of these, the first which our Lord described were the wayside soils: The land along the paths that had been beaten hard by the passing feet of those who crisscrossed it in their travels… Anyone familiar with Africa, the Middle East, or the Orient, will quickly grasp the picture…Scattered across the countryside in an irregular patchwork, the little gardens are transected and crisscrossed with a weblike network of tiny footpaths…the soil had become hard as brick, solid as cement, and impervious to the thrusting young roots of any seed sown upon it…
Jesus called us “Pathway People.” The garden of our lives had, in places, been beaten hard as rock by the passing to and fro of other people and influences in our experience…. The trail that has been trodden across my spirit and soul is solidified by the world’s ideologies and thoughts. I become conditioned by the culture of my society. When God’s view of things is laid upon my heart, when His claims are brought to bear upon me, my initial response often is, “Forget it…” God’s ideas, God’s economy, God’s view of life, God’s standards of behavior, God’s priorities simply cannot penetrate our hard hearts….
The second type of soil which our Lord discussed was rocky or stony ground. In modern terminology we would refer to this as marginal soil… Christ has never betrayed any confidence placed in Him. He always validates any faith or trust vested in Him. Yet most of us simply do not believe this or Him. This is what makes it so difficult for Him to produce His fruit in our lives. Christ comes to us continually by His Gracious Spirit, inviting us quietly to put our implicit and undivided confidence in Himself, but this we decline to do. We are reluctant to trust Him—even with the most common details of our lives. We will trust and we will try almost anything or anyone else, but not Him… Continue reading →
This item by Faith Church member Bill Miller is reposted with permission from the “Reflections” page of Bill’s website UndertheBigPine, which offers a thoughtful, reflective perspective on hunting, fishing and traditional camping.
To start the recollections flowing, all I need do is look at my hands. Missing hunks and chunks, scars, and even a partial amputation from the infamous “Lawnmower Incident of ‘91″ (that’s another story!) have rendered my hands rather tough. Their marks give me a lot to remember. On the back of my right hand there is an elongated burn scar. It’s almost as wide as a fifty-cent piece and maybe half an inch tall, tapered at the ends. Especially when my hands are on a keyboard, it stands out the most. Acquiring it was memorable.
We say our home is on the edge of the country. We live on a dead end, gravel road with five houses along it. The elderly couple who lived next door to us was the retired farm couple who had originally owned the land and cut the road into the woodlot. It was where they chose to build their retirement home not too far from the working, family farm now run by their kids. When they built the road they surveyed out five lots of a few acres each. One of them is ours today.
Our house sits a couple hundred yards from the neighboring house on each side. Beyond our lot line in the back is a field rotated annually between corn and soybeans. It stretches east all the way to the paved county road. It’s a great, quiet place to live, and we’ve been happy here for more than 20 years.
The house we bought was built by a homebuilder. While he did a great job on the building and interior, he wasn’t too careful about leaving construction debris around the lot. Like the extra pallets of large red bricks from the cobblestone walkway, for example. They were stacked just inside the edge of the woods. In the summer you couldn’t see them, but as soon as the leaves fell, there were the bricks making the yard look unkempt.
Back in those days my work travel schedule kept me on the road a great deal of the time, so projects like moving the bricks needed to be undertaken whenever the opportunity permitted. In the naïvete of youth, I too often made the time for those projects on Sunday mornings rather than joining my wiser spouse in church. So it was, a sunny summer Sunday morning found me in the yard with a trailer hooked up behind the ATV to move the cobblestones. Continue reading →
This is an excerpt from Morning and Evening, a new edition of the classic devotional by Charles H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg.
“I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD.” (Isaiah 41:14)
This morning let us hear the Lord Jesus speak to each one of us: “I will help you.” “It is but a small thing for Me, your God, to help you. Consider what I have done already. What! Not help you? Why, I bought you with My blood. What! Not help you? I have died for you and if I have done the greater, will I not do the less? Help you! It is the least thing I will ever do for you: I have done more, and will do more. Before the world began I chose you. I made the covenant for you. I laid aside My glory and became a man for you: I gave up My life for you; and if I did all this, I will surely help you now. In helping you, I am giving you what I have bought for you already. If you had need of a thousand times as much help, I would give it to you; you require little compared with what I am ready to give. It is much for you to need, but it is nothing for me to bestow. Help you? Fear not! If there were an ant at the door of your granary asking for help, it would not ruin you to give him a handful of your wheat; and you are nothing but a tiny insect at the door of My all-sufficiency. I will help you.”
O my soul, is this not enough? Do you need more strength than the omnipotence of the united Trinity? Do you want more wisdom than exists in the Father, more love than displays itself in the Son, or more power than is manifest in the influences of the Spirit? Bring here your empty pitcher! Surely this well will fill it. Hurry, gather up your wants, and bring them here—your emptiness, your woes, your needs. Behold, this river of God is full for your supply; what else can you desire? Go forth, my soul, in this your might. The Eternal God is your helper!
This is an excerpt from Run with the Horses by Eugene H. Peterson:
Nearly everyone believes in God and throws casual offhand remarks in his general direction from time to time. But prayer is something quite different. Suppose yourself at dinner with a person whom you very much want to be with—a friend, a lover, a person important to you. The dinner is in a fine restaurant where everything is arranged to give you a sense of privacy. There is adequate illumination at your table with everything else in shadow. You are aware of other persons and other activity in the room, but they do not intrude on your intimacy. There is talking and listening. There are moments of silence, full of meaning. From time to time a waiter comes to your table. You ask questions of him; you place your order with him; you ask to have your glass refilled; you send the broccoli back because it arrived cold; you thank him for his attentive service and leave a tip. You depart, still in companionship with the person with whom you dined, but out on the street conversation is less personal, more casual.
That is a picture of prayer. The person with whom we set aside time for intimacy, for this deepest and most personal conversation, is God. At such times the world is not banished, but it is in the shadows, on the periphery. Prayer is never complete and unrelieved solitude; it is, though, carefully protected and skillfully supported intimacy. Prayer is the desire to listen to God firsthand, to speak to God firsthand, and then setting aside the time and making the arrangements to do it. It issues from the conviction that the living God is immensely important to me and that what goes on between us demands my exclusive attention.
But there is a parody of prayer that we engage in all too often. The details are the same but with two differences: the person across the table is Self and the waiter is God. This waiter-God is essential but peripheral. You can’t have the dinner without him, but he is not an intimate participant in it. He is someone to whom you give orders, make complaints, and maybe, at the end, give thanks. The person you are absorbed in is Self—your moods, your ideas, your interests, your satisfactions or lack of them. When you leave the restaurant you forget about the waiter until the next time. If it is a place to which you go regularly, you might even remember his name.
This is an excerpt from the message “Finding Blessings in Unlikely Places” by Rev. Buck Day from Dec 24, 2011:
Perry Bice turned off the engine, but sat behind the wheel in his car. Parked in his driveway in front of him was a brand new wheelchair-accessible van, with a big red and gold bow across the windshield. Bice began to sob.
”Why is Daddy crying?” asked nine-year-old Branson as he got out of the car—because he’d already spied the trampoline. And he passed the basketball goal as he ran by the wheelchair ramp that led up to the house. It was still early on Christmas Day, 2001. But already the Bice family had been blessed beyond their wildest dreams, thanks to a group of anonymous volunteers in the Kansas City area – the “Elves of Christmas Present.”
The Bice family had seen more than its share of sorrow. In just a few short years, the engine had gone out on Perry’s car and the family house that he shared with his wife Katherine and their children, had burned down. And not long after that, he lost his job.
But even deeper troubles were just around the corner. You see, Katherine’s mother died suddenly. Tests revealed that she had a rare condition that helped the family unlock their own medical mysteries that they were struggling with. They were now finally able to diagnose what was wrong with the Bice’s youngest daughter, Rishonn: She had a genetic disorder—mitochondrial disease, a condition that can lie dormant for years or take a life in weeks.
Before long, the Bices learned their oldest daughter, Chambris, also had the disease. And then Mishayla also had tested positive. Two other children, Branson and Talaessa, were healthy….For the months that followed, the couple lived in a daze of grief, denial and sleepless nights. Three-year-old Rishonn died not long after she was diagnosed in 1999.
At times, although Perry was a deeply religious man, he railed at God. But neither he nor his wife Katherine was ever bitter. In fact, Katherine says “We’ve found a God that cares for us tenderly.” They were grateful when about two weeks before Christmas they received an anonymous call from a man who would only identify himself as the “chief elf,” who asked if he could bring some gifts to the children. Perry and Katherine agreed; they thought it would be a nice surprise for the children. Continue reading →
This is an excerpt from the message “Gratitude from a Prophet” by Rev. Buck Day, Dec 4, 2011:
Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian woman who lived in San Antonio. She was a patient of a doctor by the name of Will Phillips. …On this morning Dr. Phillips went into his office with a heavy heart, and it was because of Edith Burns.
Edith Burns had this habit of introducing herself by saying “Hi. My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?” Then she would later explain Easter and what it meant; and as a result, many people came to faith out of that. The doctor’s head nurse, Beverly, first met Edith when she went to take her blood pressure and Edith started the way she normally did, “Hi. My name is Edith. Do you believe in Easter?” to which Beverly responded, “Of course I do.” Edith responded, “Well, tell me what you believe about Easter.” She said, “It’s about egg hunts. It’s about dressing up. It’s about going to church.” Over time, Edith continued to press on her the real meaning of Easter to the point where she finally made a commitment to Christ.
Well, on this morning Edith came in and sat down with the doctor. As she looked at her friend, Dr. Will, she said “Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Have you been reading your Bible? Have you been praying?” To which the doctor said, “Edith, I am the doctor. You are the patient.” With a heavy heart he told her, “I’ve gotten your lab report back and it says you have cancer, Edith, and you are not going to live very long.” Edith looked at the doctor and said, “Why Dr. Will Phillips, shame on you! Why are you so sad? You have just told me that I am going to see my precious Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You are telling me that I am going to celebrate Easter every day. And now you are having a hard time giving me my ticket?” To which Dr. Phillips just shook his head in amazement.
So Edith continued regular visits to the doctor, and one of them was the day after Christmas. On that day, Edith didn’t show up. Continue reading →
This is an excerpt from Desiring God’s Daily Devotional app “Solid Joys” from Nov 23, 2012 by Rev. John Piper:
It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)
Almost all English translations miss a beautiful opportunity to preserve in English a play on words that occurs in Paul’s Greek. Paul says, “It is all for your sake, so that as charis extends to more and more people it may increase eucharistian to the glory of God.”
The Greek word for thanks is built on the word for grace: charis becomes eucharistian. This could have been preserved in English by the use of ‘grace’ and ‘gratitude’ which show the same original root. So I would translate: “It is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase gratitude to the glory of God.”
The reason this is important is because when we try to define thanks or gratitude, what we find is that it has a very close relationship to grace. Unless we see this relationship, we really don’t know what gratitude is.
…I have found it helpful to think of some things that might be thought of as gratitude, but really are not. Continue reading →
This is an excerpt from the message “Love Is…” by Rev. Buck Day, August 12, 2012:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not jealous or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)
Miss Thompson taught fourth grade, and one of her students was named Teddy Stoddard. He was kind of slow, a little unkempt. He was actually a bit of a loner and, as a result, most of the kids kind of shunned him. His mother had died just the previous year and what little motivation he had for school now was pretty much zapped. And, truth be told, Miss Thompson didn’t particularly have a lot of care for Teddy either. It was Christmas time and, along with all the other children in the class, he brought a present for his teacher. There were lots of beautiful presents on her desk, nicely wrapped, and then a brown paper sack—that was Teddy’s. When she opened up the brown paper sack there was this kind of gaudy rhinestone bracelet with a few stones missing out of it and some cheap perfume. The children began to snicker and Miss Thompson knew this was an important teaching moment, so she splashed some perfume on and put the bracelet on and told Teddy that she very much appreciated and admired the gift. At the end of the day Teddy slowly came up to the desk and said, “Miss Thompson, you smell like my mom and her bracelet looks really nice on you. Thanks. I am glad you like my present.”
At that point, after Teddy left, Miss Thompson got down on her knees because she was cut to the heart. She prayed. She prayed for forgiveness and prayed that God would use her to teach these students, but also to love them in ways that perhaps they had not received before. In the days and the weeks that would follow, she became a new teacher. She lovingly helped all the students in the class including Teddy; so by the end of the year Teddy had caught up to the rest of the students.
Miss Thompson didn’t hear from Teddy for a long time. Then one day she received this note and it said: Continue reading →