God is Here!

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“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14)

When you look out at the night sky you are looking at the handiwork of God – sparkling stars scattered across black velvet –  dancing in honor of their Creator.  The deeper man looks into outer space, the more he sees God at work. The mountains towering from the earth are grander than any human-built skyscraper and stand as a strong, silent witness to the God who ordered them to rise. The rising and setting of the sun and the moon powerfully declare the God who said, “Let there be . . .” From the towering Sequoias to the delicate Johnny-Jump-Ups, all of nature testifies of its Creator. And so do you.

 When you look in the mirror you are looking at the most powerful testimony to the existence of the Creator. Every cell in our human bodies bears God’s signature. The intricate inner workings that are occurring in your body are amazing – and you aren’t doing anything to make them happen. They are following a prescribed pattern written by their Creator.  Did you know that there is a digestive enzyme in your body that is only needed when you introduce lactose – milk sugar – into your system. It is produced by one specific DNA protein which just quietly hangs around until it is called into duty. When you drink a glass of milk at breakfast, your body signals that little protein to take its place and start producing the enzyme that breaks down the lactose for digestion. When the work is done this little dude goes back into its dormant state until you have cheese on your sandwich at lunch and ice cream for dessert after supper. Isn’t that incredible?! I know I didn’t give a “scientific” explanation there, but the point is – there is far too much intricacy and complexity to the human body – and to all of creation – to think this all happened by accident! Every breath we take, the beat of our heart, our brain waves, and the DNA that makes our bodies work all declare His praises. How can we think we are anything less than the work of a wonderful Creator?

You, Beloved, are a walking, breathing, testifying witness to the existence and creative power of God – without saying a word.  He not only fashioned you with His own hands, but He also put His image in you so that the whole world knows – God is here!

From Broken-down to Beautiful

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The white car sat forlornly on the side of the road, pushed out to the edge of the property. The tires were missing and its front end was buckled from some sort of impact. I passed it every morning on my way to work – it’s wasn’t a pretty sight. That is until one midsummer morning when I noticed that green vines were beginning to curl out from the crumpled hood and around the back end. Day by day the vines progressed taking over more and more of the broken-down car. Then came the flowers – bright blue blooms swarming over the vines and covering the car until it became a mound of morning glories. That old broken-down wreck was now a beautiful sight to behold. Every morning as I passed that spot, I looked over at the lovely mound of flowers, their faces lifted to the sun and I smiled.

Your life may feel like a wreck today. It may be a series of circumstances you couldn’t control or choices you made yourself, but there you sit – broken, pushed aside, going nowhere. Oh, my friend, God specializes in bringing beauty from ashes – (Isaiah 61:3). I know it’s true because He did it for me. He took this broken-down woman with nothing to offer but pain and foolishness and made my life “a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor” (61:3b). He took on all my sin and shame and gave me His holiness. He washed me clean, dressed me in robes of righteousness, and gave my life meaning, hope, peace, and Joy.

If you will allow Him, He will do the same for you. He will cover you with the precious, blood of His Son Jesus and His love will turn your broken-down life into a garden of splendor – a thing of beauty.  And every time you look at yourself you’ll smile at what God has done.

The Power of Deeper Roots

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“Look, mom, I watered your flowers!” My then seven-year-old son came bursting into the kitchen, tracking mud all across the freshly cleaned floor. He grabbed me by the hand and dragged me outside to take a look. “See! Didn’t I do a good job!?”  I smiled down at his eager face and gave him a big hug. “Yes, you did! Thank you, sweet boy!” I said noticing that the leaves glistened with moisture but the ground was barely damp. His idea of “watering my flowers” was to sprinkle water across the tops of the plants. When he proudly ran off to the back yard to play, I turned on the soaker hose that ran along the ground and gave the plants the good, long drink they needed to survive and flourish. I returned to the kitchen and sat down at the table with a fresh cup of coffee and my Bible. I had just started “getting serious” about reading God’s Word every day. I checked the reading plan and turned to Psalm 119:9-16. I started to close my Bible and get on with my day when I sensed a “Stop!” in my spirit. “Read it again. Slower.” So I sat back down and re-read the passage. I realized that the Psalmist wasn’t doing a quick reading of the Scriptures, He was soaking it in. Like my son’s idea of watering my plants, I was sprinkling God’s Word over the surface of my heart, but I wasn’t spending enough time in it to do my soul much good. Looking further into Psalm 119 I found verse after verse after verse about the power of the Bible for those who will give it more than a quick glance.

There’s no prize for reading the Bible through in a year.  But there is great reward in reading the Bible thoroughly. And you don’t have to read a lot each day; in fact, you will grow more with smaller, deeper bites. Knowledge takes time, but it pays off with deep roots. The kind that can stand strong in the fiercest storm. Beloved, it’s time to put away the watering can and pull out the soaker hose. Go deep in the Word of God and let God’s Words go deep in you.

Guaranteed

“Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22).Several years ago I worked in the floral department of a grocery store. It was the most fun job I’ve ever had. You just can’t have a bad day when you’re surrounded by beautiful flowers. Even Valentine’s Day was a blast for me. We had one particular arrangement that was guaranteed to stay fresh for 7 days, or your money back. In the retail industry a money-back guarantee is common. In fact, this company still offers a money-back guarantee on anything you purchase. If you’re not happy with it, they will cheerfully refund the full purchase price. That’s okay for flowers or cheese or a can of beans, but sometimes the stakes are quite a bit higher. If the auto repair shop guarantees your new brakes or your money back, you may not be alive to collect on it should they fail.God offers a perfect guarantee. He makes incredible promises and backs them up – not with a financial incentive, but with Himself. More than a thousand times in Scripture God says, “I will” and we can count on His promises because He backs them up with His name and His character. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. He promises to lead us, care for us, carry us, watch over us, protect us, provide for us, comfort us, and bless us. And most importantly, He promises to save us from our sins and give us eternal life. What is our guarantee for His promises? “Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22). Jesus Christ is all the guarantee you need. And if somehow that weren’t enough assurance, He also gives us His Holy Spirit “who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance” (Ephesians 1:14). The Holy Spirit marks you as a child and heir of the God of the universe. Every nudge away from sin and toward righteousness and Christlikeness is our assurance that we belong to Him, now and forever. Our Heavenly Father doesn’t have to offer a “money-back guarantee” because His promises will never fail. We have it in writing from Genesis to Revelation.

God’s Sonnet of Love

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Her hands were rough from years of hard labor. Her face was lined with deep wrinkles from years of living. Her body was bent, her legs weak as she shuffled along. But still she carried herself with a grace that belonged to women in a royal court, not in a grocery store in Alabama. She was scanning the flowers on display in my floral department when I greeted her and offered my assistance.

“My great-granddaughter is coming for lunch today, I want some pretty flowers to let her know she is special to me.”

“How old is she?” I asked.

“She just turned 16 last month. Oh, she’s had such a rough time lately. She’s a little on the heavy side, and the kids in school have been so mean to her. But she’s a wonderful girl and I want to help her see that she is special to me and special to God.”

“She very blessed to have you – I sure could have used those kind of words when I was 16.”

She reached her rough, wrinkled hand across the counter to mine, “Sweetheart, hear it now, you are special to God – like I tell my girl – you’re His poem.”

I placed her bouquet in her cart, hugged her and thanked her for her purchase and her sweet words. She reached up and patted my cheek, “Look up Ephesians 2:10 dear.” I smiled because I knew the verse well: “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” I’ve referenced it often in the context of being created by God for a purpose and a good work. But I dug into it again when I got home. As I studied, I saw that the original Greek transliteration of the word workmanship was poiema – from which we get our English word “poem.” I read that verse again with a personal touch, “I am God’s poem.” What a wonderful thought!

Beloved, do you know that you are also God’s poiema? You are His sonnet of love, of grace and beauty and rhythm in a world that is ugly and chaotic. When you look in the mirror you may see freckles or wrinkles, blond hair, or strands of grey. You may see someone with a little extra weight, or the effects of time and life etched into your face. But never forget that you are looking at the pièce de résistance of the One who created stars and mountains and vast oceans. You are the expression of God’s creative brilliance and power. You were formed and fashioned to show the world the creative beauty of the Author of your life. You, beautiful one, are a masterpiece.

Deeper Roots

“The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time, when trouble or persecution come because of the word, he quickly falls away.” Matthew 13:20-21
My mom always had the most beautiful flower beds in the neighborhood. Early mornings and evenings would find her tending her buds and blossoms and pulling up weeds. I don’t remember her ever purchasing flowers to plant in her beds, she always grew hers from seeds and bulbs. She knew just where to plant and how to water and tend the seeds until those tiny green shoots began to push their way through the soil. Mom had gladiolas, four-o-clocks, daylilies, zinnias, cosmos, daisies, marigolds, and more. I admired her talent so much, so when I moved into my own home, I decided to plant a flower garden. Let’s just say, I did not inherit my mom’s green thumb. My seeds barely sprouted, and what came up was thin and scraggly and quickly withered and died. When she came to my house, she took one look at my garden and said “You didn’t give them room to put down roots.” I had tried to make a flower garden in gravely, sandy soil. The plants sprouted where they could in the coarse soil, but didn’t have a strong root system to anchor them and draw nourishment from the ground. What came up wasn’t healthy and didn’t last long because there were no roots.
The same principle applies to our Christian faith, which is what Jesus is describing in the parable of the soils in Matthew 13:1-23. A farmer in those days would walk through his garden spot and broadcast seed by hand. Jesus describes seed that falls on the path that has been packed hard by many feet as those who do not receive the message of the gospel because their hearts are hard and Satan takes that seed away. Other seed find the soil, but are choked out by weeds, meaning the message of Christ is lost amid the cares and materialism of this world.
The seed that falls on the rocky soil are those who receive the message, but like my flower seeds cannot put down good roots. These are people who give up on their faith and the church at the first sign of any discomfort or struggle. They do not sink their roots in the rich soil of God’s Word, they don’t establish the habit of prayer and are often too distracted by the world to regularly attend church. They do not have strong roots. The seed that is planted into the good, healthy soil is the one who receives the gospel with an open and humble heart, who believes the message of Christ and sinks his roots down deeply into God’s Word, who seeks Him every day in prayer and who spreads his roots outward in fellowship with other believers.
Trees are a perfect example. I live in Florida, a state very prone to tropical weather systems. Walking the neighborhood after a hurricane is a real-life illustration of the importance of one’s roots. Trees with deep roots, such as oaks and nut trees are usually able to withstand the storm’s high winds, but shallow rooted trees such as maples, poplars, cottonwoods and willows will frequently be toppled by the strong winds, thrown aside with their shallow roots exposed. Trees with shallow roots draw from surface moisture, but trees that seek out water deep underground have deep, strong roots that anchor them firmly into the ground.
In case you haven’t noticed, storms happen in life. You and I will face strong, howling winds and pounding rain in the form of health problems, financial struggles, job loss, difficult relationships, depression, and on and on. If I have a shallow relationship with God, if I am being nurtured by the world, I will not be able to endure these storms. But if you have invested time in Bible study, prayer and fellowship, searching for the deeper things of God, your roots have grown deep and strong, and though you may sway and bend in the wind, when the storm passes- and the storm always passes – you will still be standing.
When God called me to write this devotional blog, He gave me the title: “Deeper Roots,” and that is the heart is my ministry, to help others develop roots that are secured deep in the rich soil of God’s Word and nourished by His truth and His character. What threatens your life? What storm rages around you? Are you anchored deep in the Word? Are you securely rooted in prayer? Are you being nurtured in the Christian fellowship of the church? Will your roots hold? If you are grounded firmly in God, in His Word and in His love, you are standing strong.
Holy Father, this life sends storms that threaten to knock us down. Help us, Lord, to put our trust in You and let out roots grow strong in Your Word and Your love. Give us deeper roots God. Amen.