{re}fresh

Month: October, 2012

A Planting of the Lord

by Dawn Aldrich

Today’s guest post is written by Dawn Speer, a blossoming writer full of God’s splendor.

In light of Mandy Adendorff’s prophetic words this past Sunday, Dawn’s article is timely. Note, she submitted this post for review a week prior to hearing Mandy’s word. Thank you,  Dawn for listening to God’s heart and sharing the words He planted in your heart.

“They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” Isaiah 61:3b

 This summer I held little hope for my pitiful roses with their brittle branches and sparse, black spotted leaves.  What good could come from these ugly plants?  Not knowing what to do with these poor little bushes, I simply ignored them and left them alone in my backyard garden.  A couple of weeks later, to my surprise, my husband spotted a rose bud. Within a week that tiny bud bloomed into glorious fullness.  Its delicate petals held a blush shade of pink and its sweet fragrance was a delight to my nose.  In the midst of my joy I thought, as quickly as this delicate bud bloomed certainly it will quickly fade. But it didn’t. It stood strong even through harshest rain and winds.

Have you ever felt like the ugly rose; thought your sin must be as obvious as the black spotted leaves? Has your hope run out wondering if God would use you dressed in all your ugliness? 

We all face times when we feel as brittle as my pitiful roses when we can’t muster enough strength to get out of bed, let alone fight through life’s winds and rains. When we feel weak and sickly, unable to bloom, God is there.  It is through His power we are saved, able to resist temptations. 

And when we fail? He promises to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. He remembers our sin no longer and nor should we. Our spots are removed and then we bloom! 

Isaiah 61:3 says, “He has the power and authority to bestow on us a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.”

 We might feel like ugly, brittle rose plants, but when our hearts seek after God he sees us as a display of his splendor.   

What does God’s splendor look like?  Revelation 4:2 describes it this way: 

“… before me was a throne in heaven, with someone sitting on it.  And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald, encircled the throne.”

 God says we are a planting for the display of His splendor. When we confess our weakness and admit our desperation for God we make room for His power and strength to work in and through us. 

 Prayer: Lord God I confess my sin to you and believe you when you say you will forgive me and cleanse me of all unrighteousness.  Lord help me to lay down the things that cause me my soul to be spotted like the rose leaves. Help me to see the fullness of your beauty in me and see myself as You do, “a planting for the display of Your splendor!

 

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Tending the Garden of Our Hearts

by Rob Dunne

“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Matthew 8:15

I believe that certain instincts exist within creation. For example, female sea turtles bury clutches of eggs on the beach. Hatchlings usually emerge from the nest at night or during a rainstorm when the temperature is cooler. Once out, the little turtles orient themselves to the brightest horizon, and then dash toward the sea. If they don’t make it to the ocean quickly, many hatchlings will die of dehydration in the sun or be caught by predators like birds and crabs.

This is a picture of life on earth for humankind. When we are born, something inside us instinctively draws us to the Light. Like the sea turtle, there are many dangers seeking to prevent us from reaching our destination. We need to be watchful of these dangers and do our part to avoid them.

In Matthew chapter 8, Jesus tells the familiar story of the sower and the seed. He presents us with four scenarios of what happens when people hear the Word of God:

  • Those who hear the Word but have it snatched away by the devil. This prevents them from believing the Word and getting saved.
  • Those who hear the Word, but don’t allow it to take root deep within their hearts. When temptation comes, they give in easily.
  • Those who hear the Word and allow the cares, riches and pleasures of life to choke it out of them. This third group is the type I think we see most often today in the United States. This nation richly blesses us with opportunity. Here, you can pursue your dreams and become wealthy. Among other things, music, television, movies, computers and sports distract us.
  • Those whose hearts are good and fertile, that upon receiving the Word, allows it to take root. 

We must tend to the garden of our hearts like a masterful gardener. We are obligated to guard our hearts from the devil so that he cannot snatch the Word from us. Feeding our hearts with the Word on a daily basis is important so that it may take root deep within us. As thorns and weeds pop up, we must quickly remove them and cast them in the fire. By doing all of these things, we allow God’s Word to bear fruit in our lives.

As you meet with the Lord today, ask Him if your heart needs fertilizing, weeding or pruning. He is anxious to give you His green thumb of approval!

To Re-Imagine a Political Jesus

by Mike McKinniss

As I write this, the conventions of both major American political parties are still fresh in my memory.  The 2012 election is less than 60 days away.  We are chest-deep in the mixed blessing that is political discourse in the United States.

The events of this waning summer reminded me of a Newsweek cover story from the spring, which bemoaned the political involvement of the American church.  You’ll find below my reflections written six months ago on my own blog.  The significance of these issues for the church today are undiminished in such a short time.

Just out in Newsweek is a cover story from Catholic author Andrew Sullivan.  His piece seeks to highlight what he sees as a crisis in (especially) American Christianity: too much politics.  Go ahead and read it.  It’s provocative, if fundamentally flawed.

How flawed? you ask.  The first and most basic is Sullivan’s love affair with Thomas Jefferson’s word-only Jesus, where the United States’ third president had carefully trimmed Christ’s teachings from a copy of the New Testament and recreated his own more pure, apolitical document.  This is the classic modernist folly.

By ignoring Jesus’ actions, as Jefferson did, we ignore the massive political implications of Jesus’ whole life.  The very things that Andrew Sullivan says we must embody as followers of Christ (nonviolence, service-minded ethics, a passionate devotion to the Creator) are themselves bursting with political power.  Not, we must warn, political power after the manner of the kings of this world (Mk 10:42-45), but after the model of Jesus himself.  Jesus did, after all, topple the greatest and most violent embodiment of imperial political power ever devised up to the first century.  Following Jesus should not make us less engaged in this world, but more.  (To demonstrate the political implications of Jesus’ actions, we might reference the Triumphal Entry, just celebrated in churches around the world not two days ago.  See Mark 11 and parallels.)

The apolitical religious vision of Jefferson (and Sullivan) is, as Patrol Magazine’s David Sessions has better articulated, a natural outflow of 18th century Enlightenment thought.  This has given us what amounts to little more than a closet Christianity, content to concern itself with its own dainty ecclesial affairs while the rest of the world goes on about its business.

There are plenty of other flaws in Sullivan’s piece.  We could take, for example, his mistaken arguments about Jesus’ lack of concern with abortion or homosexuality (Jesus traveled and taught almost exclusively among Jews for whom these were non-issues).  And nevermind Sullivan’s misunderstanding of Jesus’ anticipation of the end of the world (Jesus foresaw much, but not this).  And although Sullivan is keen to point out the church’s recent (and very real) troubles (not least of which are the child molestation scandals within, but not limited to, the Catholic Church), he overlooks the worldwide church’s vast, unpublished good works great and (mostly) small.

Still, the church is probably in some sort of crisis.  We do need to learn how to articulate in word and deed the message of the peaceful and yet powerful Christ become king over the whole of creation.  We need to do this in genuine ways that do not succumb to the normal ways of doing “political” business.  But this will not make us apolitical; it will make us political in a different way.

Turning Disappointments Into Opportunities

by Julie

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

We have all experienced moments, even seasons of disappointment. When our expectations are not met it’s hard and it hurts. When everything doesn’t go as we planned we feel disappointed.

We all do it. We dream up the way we think things should happen. We are let down when we get a new job and it doesn’t turn out to be everything we hoped for. When someone close to us hurts us it’s upsetting. When our life looks nothing like we thought it would that can be very discouraging.

One thing I learned about disappointment is that it usually comes when I didn’t allow God much say in the situation. I find the most disappointment comes when we don’t invite God into our plans. When we do this we operate out of what we want and that welcomes discouragement. Rather than allowing disappointment to become a pattern, we can move past it.

We can turn our disappointments into opportunities.

  • Look at that job.  Take the opportunity to thank the Lord for the His provision and the people you work with. Then watch and take notice how remaining thankful will transform your job.
  • Look at that relationship that is hurting and invite the Lord to give you His perspective. Allow Him to work in your heart for that person. Watch what He does and expect Him to move.
  • Look at your life. When things don’t line up the way you wanted them to you have the opportunity to trust and know that God is doing something amazing in your life. Know that it’s His pleasure to give you the desires of your heart.

Where are you disappointed today? What are the places in your life do you need to remain thankful? Where do you need to seek the Lord’s perspective? Where do you need to just trust and know that God is working?

God is a God of restoration. It’s on His heart to restore joy and hope back to you.

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