But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. (Josh 24:15 selcted NIV)
The greatest gift God gave us was free choice. He will never force himself on us nor trick us into following Him. We have the option of following the world, of thinking in the popular mold or of following Jesus and doing things His way.
There are consequences to our choices. Deuteronomy 30:19 says: “I’ve set life and death before you today: both blessings and curses. Choose life, that it may be well with you – you and your children.”
We live on a property with three acacia trees. The one nearest our cottage is a paper bark. At about this time every year, they all produce masses of pale yellow pompom flowers. Quite soon the bees will come in squadrons to take advantage of all the pollen. Their drone will rival the twitter of birds. I call this bee day.
In another season, the trees produce seeds in untidy pods. In winter the paper bark doesn’t lose all its leaves but it loses most, allowing the sunshine to percolate into our garden.
There are different seasons and some seasons are messy. At the moment we have pompoms scattered on the grass like confetti, on the tiled floor under the gazebo and bunching in the curve of the canvas on the top.
The pod-dropping season is just as messy, as is the leaf-thinning one.
Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens: 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, and time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 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.” (Ecc 3:1-8 NIV)
Our seasons are not annual, like the paper bark’s. They are linear. One season ends and another begins. Let’s face it, some seasons are messy. Parents of babies and toddlers suffer from interrupted sleep, messy houses, unpunctuality and constant exhaustion. Yet, looking back on those days, weren’t they special? I cried when each of my children went to school for the first time.. It marked the end of that messy season in my life. Now, as a grandmother, life is much more ordered.
The thing about messy seasons is they don’t last forever. In the scale of life they are short-lived. By Christmas there will no longer be pompoms on my grass. Yet somehow, the messy seasons are memorable. Let’s not wish them away too soon.
Father God, Creator of all things, thank you for the different seasons of my life. Thank You for the messy times that seem to have flown by. Please help me embrace each new season with the wonder of a child going to a new holiday house. May I explore it and thank You for its unique gifts. Amen.
But now,this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord your God,…” (Isiah 43:1- 3a)
God knows my name. He has called me by name. I am not just one of the world that He loves, or one of the “Whoever believes,” or even one of the “All those who are weary and heavy laden.” It is personal. He calls me by my name, Jenny.
This morning I found out something I have never known before. One of the meanings of my name is “Yahweh is gracious.” I’m just reflecting on that.
God sets great store by our names – to the extent that He sometimes changes them where appropriate. Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter and Saul became Paul.
What does your name mean to God and are you living up to it? Either way, know that His promises are for you. Personally.
Thank you, Father, that I am Yours and You know me by name. Hallowed be Thy name. Amen.
This post is part of the Saturday Streams of Consciousness challenge. Today’s challenge is to write about the last thing I put in my fridge. Since I am currently enjoying frothy cappuccino, the last thing I put back in my fridge was milk. I can’t think of milk without thinking of milk and honey and the land God promised to the Israelites.
God promised to lead them to a Land of Milk and Honey. However, once they were almost at the Promised Land, close enough, indeed, to send spies to scout out the land, they had a crisis of faith. Although two of the twelve spies brought back proof of the productivity of the land and urged the people to immediately take possession, the other eight talked fear into them. The people are like giants, they reported, we are like grasshoppers in their eyes and we appeared the same to ourselves. They forgot about God. They forgot about the promise.
They relied, instead, on democracy. “Let’s vote on it,” they said. “After all, the majority of the people can’t be wrong, can they?”
We know what happened as a result of their worldly thinking. God said, in essence, “All right, have it your way. You could have done this the easy way by trusting Me but you have chosen to do it the hard way by trusting yourselves. Maybe the next generation will do better. none of you will see the promised land except Joshua and Caleb, who were willing to trust me.”
The Israelites spent another 38 years in the Wildeness in God’s training camp. Their own resources were totally inadequate. They had to rely on Him. Nevertheless none of that generation got to see the Promised land, except Joshua and Caleb.
How often don’t we rely on popular opinion rather than God’s word? On my own I am not courageous enough to go against the thinking of the masses. After all, the majority has to be right, doesn’t it? The story of Joshua shows us that kind of thinking is a lie. God’s truth is true, no matter how many people don’t believe it. He will keep His promises, no matter how many people don’t trust Him. We need to make our own decisions, not be swayed by others.
God said to Joshua as He says to me, “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.” (Josh 1:5-7 (NIV)
Father God, You know that I am neither strong nor courageous. Yet my life is hidden in Christ. He has enough strength and courage to work out this fruit in me. Help me to trust You and Your word rather than social media and popular opinion. Amen.
Flavours are important. For breakfast I usually have a bowl of oats. Over the years I’ve made my own tweaks to my oats. I mush up tinned pie apples and add cinnamon and raisins to make a yummy addition. One tablespoon of this and one of yoghurt, mix it into the oats, sprinkle with chopped peanuts and you have oats-a-la-Jenny.
Yesterday my oats tasted funny. I had mixed up a new batch of apple mush the day before. I cast my mind back and tried to think of a reason my oats tasted of cloves instead of cinnamon. I went to the spice cupboard. My spices are arranged alphabetically. Cinnamon first. The bottle was empty. Next powdered cloves. Brown powder. I deduced what had happened.
Cloves can be used to spice apples. Baked apples often have whole cloves stuck into them. But it’s not the same. Luckily it wasn’t cayenne pepper or something. At least my breakfast was still edible.
Isn’t it amazing the different flavours God has created for us to enjoy? Isn’t it wonderful that He has given us the ability to differentiate between them?
My granddaughter doesn’t like bananas. I found a recipe on the internet for a healthy chocolate mousse using organic cocoa, avocado and a super ripe banana. My grandson helped me make this as our experimental pudding. He took his sister a taste without telling her the ingredients.
“It tastes like banana,” she said.
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything…” (Matt 5:13 NIV)
He could have said the same about cloves, or bananas. If they lose their flavour, they are not good for anything.
God has called us all to certain things. We have different gifts, different callings.
I’ve been reading the Max Lucado book, In the Eye of the Storm. Today I read how, as a teenager, he had asked a friend to join him and his father on a fishing holiday. They couldn’t fish because of the rainy, icy, sleety weather. Cooped up together in a camper, he discovered flaws he hadn’t noticed in his friend before and even in his father. He says, “When those who are called to fish don’t fish, they fight.” Maybe that’s true of all of us. If we don’t do what God has called us to do, we lose our flavour.
I believe I am called to write. My spiritual gift is encouragement. What happens when I don’t write, when I don’t encourage? I fritter my time away on other things. I search the internet for bargains on the things I covet but can’t afford. I spend time on my cell phone allowing other people’s opinions to influence my mind. I laze around feeling depressed and even headachy.
I know life is a balance between various aspects, but I pray that I might never lose my flavour.
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for the gifts you have endowed me with, for my calling and my ministry. Please help me keep close to You that I may never lose my flavour. Amen.
I understand this to mean God determines when I am born and when I die. I believe He chose my parents, the era I live in, my country and my birth order.
One of my favourite Psalms is 139.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my informed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” Verses 13-16 NIV)
The Lord has chosen my station in life, where I live and what happens to me. I can say with the Psalmist, “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”(Psalm 16:6)
So to say, “My times are in Your hands,” is to state a fact.
However, if I say to God, “My time is in Your hands,” it’s a totally different thing. It means, “I commit the time You have given me to Your control and management.” It is a prayer of commitment, of surrender. What a difference an “s” makes!
Jesus didn’t have control over His own time. On the day He heard about the beheading of John the Baptist, He longed to get away to a quiet place by Himself to mourn and process the events. Instead, He was inundated, first by excited disciples who had returned from a mission, and when He took them with Him to a quiet place, the crowds were waiting for Him. He loved them. He gave them His time and then fed them, more than 5000 of them.
Sure I can make plans. I need to go shopping, sort out admin, enjoy coffee with a friend. I need to earn my keep, take care of the home and family God has given me. But I need to remember Whose time it really is.
Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. You know my beginning and end. Thank You for where you have placed me, my country, my city, my home. Thank You for the family You have given me. I commit to You now, my time. ‘Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.'”
The last line of my prayer is from a hymn, “Take My Life and Let It Be,” by Frances R Havergal, 1874.
Yesterday my granddaughter got enrolled as a Girl Guide. When a Girl Guide gets enrolled, she makes a promise.
“I promise that I will do my best to do my duty to my God and my country, to help other people and to keep the Guide Law.”
Once the girl has made the promise, a badge, called a trefoil, is pinned onto her uniform reminding her of the promise she made.
In our case, this was a very special trefoil. It had belonged to my mother who was a Guider about sixty years ago. My daughter was enrolled with it and now, my granddaughter.
It is similar in tradition and sentiment to getting married with your grandmother’s wedding ring. A ring is a symbol of the promises you made on your wedding day.
Unfortunately, keeping a promise is no longer a sign of honour or integrity. One only has to look at the percentage of divorces to realise that most people do not honour the promises they made “…till death us do part.”
It is hard to teach children the value of a promise when the adults around them set such a bad example.
God is not like us. He keeps His promises. Always.
Jesus said,”…whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37b). That famous passage, John 3:16 reads: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV)
God has made a promise. Whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life. You can trust this promise. You can bet your life on it. Christians do.
John 6:44 Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.”
He also said, “…apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5b)
In other words, even coming to Christ is not at our initiation, but God’s.
Charles Wesley had a term for this action of the Father when He draws us to Christ. He called it “prevenient grace.”
Looking back in my past to identify signs of prevenient grace in my life, I remember an incident in my childhood which I count as my earliest possible memory of this grace.
I must have been quite young, but already at school, so possibly five or six years old. Somebody at school told me that if you stripped a feather of all but a top tuft of vanes and planted it in the ground, you could make a wish and the wish would come true. At that age I already felt inferior to others. I wasn’t as pretty, as comfortable socially, as interesting as other kids. I felt I was not good enough. My wish was that I could be good enough. In the back of my mind I had a sort of fairy story. I was actually a princess and had been swopped at birth and one day people would find out who I really was.
Peering back through sixty years, I can see that this was my first inkling that I was a sinner. At university I heard another variation on this theme from an Assembles of God pastor. “Wherever I go, I go too and spoil everything.”
I have now been a Christian for over forty years. I know that I have the righteousness of Christ since on the cross He exchanged my sin for His righteousness. Nobody can say that’s not good enough. Moreover, I know myself to be a daughter of the King of the Universe. In anybody’s book, that makes me a princess.
So it might have taken a while but my wish on a feather came true.