Fish Ponds and Quiet Time

One recent Sunday afternoon I asked my 4 year old granddaughter Avery what they did in Sunday school that morning.  She replied, “We went to the fish pond.”  “What’s at the fish pond?” I asked.  “Fish” was her reply.  Avery went on to explain that she didn’t see any that day because they were hiding.  Yes, there are fish at the fish pond but there is so much more.

The fish pond is actually the Carmen and Nancy Riviello Memorial Tree Garden at Hays Hills Baptist church.  It was built by a loving son in godly memory of his parents.  It located on the church grounds, just a short walk from the sanctuary, located in a wooded area with a beautiful fish pond stocked with large coy fish.  My words do not do it justice.  It is a lovely place built in a lovely area by one with a loving heart.  And it is a great place to pray.

As Avery and I talked about the Fish Pond, we talked about prayer.  I asked her where we can pray.  She said, “You can pray at home, the zoo, you can pray everywhere…but playgrounds are noisy.”  I love that girl.  She is right.  You can pray everywhere…even at times when it may be inappropriate or disruptive or disrespectful to pray out loud.  Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “pray without ceasing.”  We should have a prayerful heart and look for opportunities to pray and lift up supplications to the Lord.  You can pray everywhere but playgrounds are noisy.  Noisy places don’t always make for the best conversations with the Lord.  In Exodus chapter 34:2-3 when God was preparing to give Moses the Ten Commandments He had Moses meet Him early in the morning on the mountain.  No one else, not even the flocks or the herds were to be on the mountain.  It was just to be serious quiet time between Moses and God.  There were to be no distractions, no disruptions, no cell phones, no TV, no radio, no noisy playground…just a quiet place to meet.

Yes, you can pray anywhere but quiet places are nice…places like the Fish Pond.

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The Plans He Has For You

I was having a discussion with someone this week about church.  This led to me sharing about some of my hopes, my dreams and the things that God is doing in my life.  I shared with them my desire to fill the pulpit again someday in God’s good timing.  As we talked about God and how good He is to us I was reminded of Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”  Yes, the Lord has plans and a purpose for each and every one of us.  He longs to reconcile those who have gone astray, receive them unto Himself so that He can reward them with a place and a purpose in His Kingdom.  Sometimes the plans and the purposes that the Lord has for us are not so readily apparent.  But just because we are not yet aware of them does not mean that they do not exist.

The Lord demonstrated this to me a few years ago at another time when I was in between preaching jobs.  I had sent out about a dozen letters looking for opportunities to provide pulpit supply, waiting for my next assignment from the Lord and I was trying my best to be patient.  Patience is a virtue but it is not my strong suit.  One of my favorite expressions is “wait is what broke the camel’s back.”  Waiting is difficult for me.  It is difficult for me now and it was difficult for me then.  Several weeks had passed and no one had called me to fill in and provide pulpit supply or do anything else.  I felt like a fish out of water as I was no longer preaching every week and as the weeks passed I even began to doubt and in some ways question the calling on my life.

One Saturday morning I was working on a pave stone retaining wall in the back yard.  It was about 30 foot long and was 2 – 3 stones high to keep dirt in the flower bed.  It was similar to one I had built in the front yard a couple of years earlier.  After several hours of hard work, I got ready to put the last stone in place.  But this last stone would need to be special.  I was going to have to take a rock hammer and score it, chip away at it, cut it in half and shape it in a triangular piece to make it fit just right in that curved area where I needed that final missing piece.  The last time I tried to shape one of those stones with a rock hammer it took a long time.  As I rested for a moment and reflected on the task before me, I remembered that I had a piece of a stone left over from when I built the retaining wall around the front garden area two years earlier.  I saved it and put it in the shed and used it for a door stop.  Would it fit?  I went to the shed and grabbed the stone and took it to the new retaining wall.  It fit perfectly and slid right into place!  Tears began to roll down my face.  I had been feeling so much anxiety and concern; I was worried about whether or not there would ever be another place for me, something else for me to do.  I just knew that this was God’s way of letting me know that in His time, in His way, He would place me right where I needed to be.  I had not been forgotten.  I had already been shaped by His Hands and designated for a place in His garden.

Oh my friend, don’t ever think that the Lord has forgotten about you.  Don’t ever think that you have just been placed in the shed never to be seen or heard from again.  You are a special and beloved child of the King and He has plans and purposes for all His children – plans for a future and a hope.  Don’t be down, don’t be discouraged!  Remember whose you are!  Remember that He loves you and will never forsake you and He has never forgotten you!  Trust in the Lord and be patient.  Hold open doors until He places you in a garden.  And remember, holding open doors ain’t bad work either…any work He gives you is special.  Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

Posted in Christianity, faith, God, God has a plan for you, inspirational, Jeremiah 29:11, purpose | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Be Still and Know that He is God

I have felt a little frustrated lately…I think I have just been tired.  When I feel frustrated I am reminded of a sermon I heard Charles Stanley preach years ago.  He said when you are frustrated you should halt.  Halt before you do something you might regret.  He went on to give an acronym for H.A.L.T. and say that we often become frustrated when we are too Hungry, too Angry, too Lonely or too Tired.  When we recognize that we are in one of those conditions it is time to halt.  When I am frustrated I do my best to HALT and I also try to remember Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”  It is good to remind myself that God is in control.  I can be still, relax and allow Him to minister to me, comfort me, lead me, and guide me.  There is no need for me to be frustrated; I don’t have to have all the answers.  I just have to halt and let the Lord be my Lord.

How about you?  Are you frustrated today?  Are you too hungry?  The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and we are to glorify God in our body.  That means we need to walk right and talk right and it means we need to eat right.  Some of us need to eat right – right now for the sake of our testimony.  The Snickers candy bar commercial is right…we are not ourselves when we are hungry.  You may not sound like Joe Peschi but chances are if you go around hungry long enough you won’t sound like a child of the King of Kings either.  I understand trying to drop a few pounds, my belt being on the last notch can attest to that but we have to remember that we don’t gain our weight in one day, we don’t lose it in one day either.  Be sensible about what you eat or don’t eat.  It would be a shame to lose more friends than pounds….

Are you too angry?  For me sometimes being hungry leads to being angry and the Bible says in James 1:20 “the anger of man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.”  Ask the Lord to help you to deal with your anger.  Ask Him for discernment to be able to recognize situations and people that get you riled up and ask Him for wisdom to deal with those situations and people in a way that brings Him glory and honor.  You will likely find that there are simply some places you should not go and some people you rarely need to see.

Are you too lonely?  Way back in the beginning in Genesis 2:18 the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”  We were created in God’s image.  Not only does that mean that we have emotions, free will and the ability to reason, but it also means that we have an innate desire for fellowship.  It is not good to be alone or to feel lonely.  Feeling lonely for an extended period of time does something to our physiology and can lead to depression.  If you feel depressed, pray and ask the Lord for relief.  And make an appointment to see your doctor.  The Lord has ordained the use of physicians.  Whether healing comes from a doctor or prayer or a combination thereof it all originates from the Great Physician.  When you pray, ask the Lord to bless you with godly companionship and fellowship. Ask Him to help you not feel lonely or to be alone.  You CAN find a friend.  You CAN find a body of believers who will welcome you.  And I know that as you pray for godly relationships to be established in your life that the Lord Himself will embrace you, comfort you and encourage you.

Are you too tired?  Here is the secret you won’t find on Google, grab a pencil.  Ready?  Get some rest!  I know, I know.   You have too much to do.  That is the way it was in Mark chapter 6.  The disciples were helping Jesus minister to the crowds and people kept coming and coming.  There was so much work to do.  Yet, in the midst of all that work to do, with so much yet to be done, Jesus tells the disciples in Mark 6:31, “Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)”

See, Jesus said it before Charles Stanley.  HALT!  Stop what you are doing and rest!  Everything does not depend on you.  Get to a secluded place where you can relax; a place where you can let God meet your needs and minister to you!  HALT and do the right thing so that you don’t go on in your own strength and do the wrong thing.  Take the time to simply be still and know that He is God.  He is in control and ultimately He will be exalted among the nations, He will be exalted in the earth!”

Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

Posted in Christianity, eat right, faith, God, Psalm 46:10, Snickers commercial | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Does the Cross Mean to You?

Going to work drawing  When the granddaughters come over our afternoons are filled with lots of activity.  We generally wind things down by spending some time coloring and drawing.  Sometimes I will begin to draw a picture and the girls will try to guess what it is going to be before I am finished.  This week I drew a picture of a bear wearing a shirt and tie holding a brief case.  When I first started the picture and drew the face, Avery who is 4 was the first to yell, “It’s a bear!”  But when I was finished the picture, it was Haley who is two and a half years old who looked at it and said, “Hims going to work.”  The images of the briefcase and the shirt and tie meant something to her.  She sees her dad wear a shirt and tie and carry a brief case when he goes to work.   This bear in my cartoon was decked out in similar fashion so she just knew he was going to work.  And she was right, that was exactly what I had in mind when I drew the picture.  I love those girls.

Images can be iconic.  They can convey great and powerful messages.  Picture the image of a cross.  What thoughts come to your mind?  As I thought of it when I sat down to write this devotion, I initially thought of Christ, my Savior subjecting Himself to death willingly and willfully as Atonement for my sin.  As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  Yes, the cross reminds me that Christ gave His life for me…what a wonderful Savior we have!

But that is not the only image that comes to my mind.  When a Christian looks at the image or picture of the cross, if they just see a picture of Jesus as Savior, they are not seeing the full picture.  The Bible records in Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”  Jesus spoke these words just after He told the disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem where he would suffer many things at the hands of the chief priests and scribes, be killed, and then be raised up on the third day.  This did not line up with Peter’s plans or desires so Peter rebuked Jesus and told Him, “No way!”  Jesus then told Peter that Peter was doing the devil’s bidding by setting his mind on the desires and will of man rather than the desires and will of God.  Jesus then told them that if they wanted to follow Him, they would need to deny themselves and take up their own cross and follow Him.  The cross was known to be an instrument of death.  The disciples knew that Christ was telling them that they would have to put to death their own desires and wills.  To follow Him they would have to forego their own path and submit to His leadership and Lordship.

As Christians we must take up our cross.   We must be willing to submit ourselves to the interests, the desires and the will of God.  We must be willing to follow God’s plan and do things the way that God wants us to do them, even if we don’t like them.  When we see the cross we should not just think of Jesus as our Savior, we should think of Him as our Lord.  That is the complete picture.  He doesn’t want to just save you; He wants to sanctify you!  He doesn’t want to just give you eternal life; He wants to give you abundant life.  He wants to do a work in you and through you but you must submit to His Lordship and His leadership.  Denying ourselves is not easy.  But anything God asks us to do; He will help us to do.  And if you are like me, “Hims still got a lot of work to do.”

Posted in 2 Corinthians 5:21, Christianity, faith, God, Matthew 16:24, religion, the cross | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I have to tell ya

I love various types of music.  From time to time I like to listen to different types of Spanish music.  I like salsa, merengue and other genres.  One of my favorite songs of all time though is a Cuban folk song called Guantanmera.  Today on the way home I listened to that song.  There is a verse in the song that says, “Antes de morirme quiero, echar mis versos del alma…”  Roughly translated this man is saying that before he dies, he must share these verses, these words from his soul.  Every time I listen to that song, as I sing along in my car or maybe on the treadmill I think of the way that God has blessed me.  I think of the words deep in my heart that I long to say, want to say, and need to say to my wife, my kids, my grandkids and those I love.  Oh my, the Lord has been good to me.  As I listen to that song, I also think of the words that I want to share with others about how good and gracious and merciful God is.   I think of how God demonstrated His love for me in that while I was yet an unrepentant sinner Christ died for me.  The Lord has been so good to me, given me eternal life, blessed me with abundant life, that I just have to tell somebody.  John said it like this in 1 John 1:1-3 “ What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life… we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

Yes, I recognize that the Lord has blessed me in ways that I do not deserve; not because of who I am but because of who He is.  He has blessed me with eternal life.  He has blessed me with a wonderful family and fantastic friends and I cannot and should not keep such news to myself.  “Antes de morirme quiero, echar mis versos del alma…”

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You Can Count On The Lord for Wisdom

I knew I was in for a treat when my granddaughter Avery said, “Pawpaw, let me tell you something.”  This is the same phrase she has used to initiate conversations about what it is like to be a big sister, what it means to be in love and what the consequences would be if I cheated at cards.  My 4 year old philosopher had my attention.  “One plus one is two.  Two plus one is three.  Two plus two is four and four plus four is…it’s…wait a minute.”  She stopped long enough to look at her hands and count silently then she continued, “Four plus four is eight!  See Pawpaw, if you don’t remember, you can just count your fingers!  There is always a way to figure it out.”

I love that girl.  She’s right.  Not just on the “four plus four” thing (I checked) but she is right about problems in general.  There is always a way to figure it out.  Sometimes we encounter problems that stump us.  We don’t know what to do and it just seems like we will never be able to find an answer.  The Bible lets us know that there is always a way to figure things out.   We are told in James 1:5 “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.”  No matter what difficulty we encounter, no matter trouble befalls us there is always a means to discerning the answer.  The Lord desires to help us sort out our messy situations and work through the difficult problems and scenarios in our lives.  There is always a way to figure things out; there is a means of solving your problems.  Maybe you are having difficulty making a tough decision today.  Maybe there is something that you just can’t quite figure out.  Turn to the Lord, seek His help, and ask for His counsel.  As Avery would say, “Let me tell you something”…you can count on the Lord.   He will help you.  He will give you wisdom.  Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

Proverbs 11:14 “Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.”

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Being Pruned for New Growth

I have some type of house plant on the desk at my office which I guess really makes it an “office plant.” It was given to me a few months ago by the person who occupied the desk before I did.  It looks like a Caladium except it is greener and thicker.  The truth is that ever since it was placed in my care I have been struggling to take care of it.  Though it did not start off in the best of health, and has not had the best of care, things are starting to get better.  With the help of my cubicle neighbor Allison I think I have finally discovered just how often it should be watered.  I have also discovered how often it should not be watered; which is to say that my neighbor Allison has helped me soak up the extra water out from under my printer after I surpassed the appropriate “watering threshold” on a couple of occasions.  I am a slow learner, what can I say.  Despite my best efforts and a little plant food, my plant still has not grown much or been as healthy as I would expect.  Last week though, things took a turn for the better.  I pruned some unhealthy and dead leaves just so that it would not look so bad.  Soon thereafter I was surprised by some new growth.  A whole new bright green stem started to pop up.  Within two days there was another nice shiny green leaf!  I was so excited ran to go get some more water – until Allison stopped me and reminded me it was not watering day.

As I reflected on the new growth that God provided in that plant, I thought of some great words in John chapter 15.   Jesus is speaking of how we exist to glorify God.  He says that we can only do that through a relationship with the Father through Him.  In John 15:5 He says “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”  Sometimes our lives are like that poor little house plant on my desk.  We want to grow, we want to bear much fruit, and we want to do great things!  We try watering, we try plant food, we try so many things but we don’t get the results we want – still our life just doesn’t look right.  Very little happens.  We still don’t seem to be healthy; we still don’t seem to be bearing fruit.  The Bible is true; it is spot on.  Apart from Christ you cannot really do anything; at least not anything that really matters in the grand scheme of things.  First, we need to ask ourselves if we have the right relationship with the Lord.  Have we been reconciled to God the Father through His Son Jesus Christ?  Have we received Christ as Lord and been forgiven of our sins?  Are we abiding in Him?  That is the relationship we need to be able to do anything significant, anything of eternal, lasting value.

Even, if we are confident of our relationship with Christ, we can still experience times when our lives don’t look right.   There can still be times when we struggle to grow and bear fruit.  It is in those times that we need to ask if there are some unhealthy or dead areas that need to be removed from our lives.  Are there some things that need to be avoided, let go or tossed aside?  When we prune those areas we make room for new growth.  Please understand, if you don’t prune it the Lord will.  In the beginning of that same chapter Jesus says in John 15:1-2, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”

Yes, the Lord loves to see us grow.  For that reason He will prune the branches so that new growth can occur.  Sometimes pruning can be a painful process.  But even if it is painful, the new growth that follows is always a blessing.  Bearing fruit is also a blessing for it brings glory to the Father.  Until next time, stay strong in the faith.

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