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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Lessons From My Orchid

The orchid you see in this picture was once as beautiful as it is now, then after a while, it became withered,
the blooms fell off, and it looked pretty sad. I had two options: keep it and try to restore it, or throw it away. After considering for a few weeks, I decided to take the uncertain route. I would repot the thing and see what happened. I went down to the garden store, bought a nice terra cotta pot and some orchid potting soil. Armed with these, I faced the poor, unsuspecting plant.

Now this orchid had sent out a lot of leaves and roots, and not being a horticulturist by any means, I wasn't sure how to separate them, but I did my best, and the result is what you see in the picture. As I looked at my lovely orchid this morning, I thought about the way God restores us when we are burnt out, tired and no longer feel capable of bearing fruit. 

Sarah was a woman like that. Well past her child-bearing years, she thought she could no longer fulfill the promise God had made to her and her husband Abraham. God had told her she would have a son, but here she was, already ninety years old. Impossible dream, right? Wrong! Nothing is impossible with God. If I, a novice where orchids are concerned, could transplant an orchid and make it produce beautiful blooms, think what God, the Master Creator can do with us if we would only entrust our broken lives to Him. 

 The Bible says, "Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings" (Isaiah 58: 12).
You don't have to go about feeling like a dried-up plant. God has promised, "Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up" Psalm 71: 20). 
"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill" (Numbers 23: 19).

You can learn more about Sarah and how she received God's promise of a son even though she had been barren most of her life. Just go to Amazon Kindle where you can purchase my book Women For All Seasons for just $2. 99.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

A True Love Story For Valentine's Day

The Book of Ruth (novel)
The Book of Ruth (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What is your favorite Valentine's Day activity? If you say curling up with your honey and reading a good love story, then you may be in tandem with some other people. So, if you're looking for a good love story to read this weekend, why not read the book of Ruth? Aww, that's the Bible, you might say. True, but reading this story has several benefits:
1) If you feel guilty because you haven't been reading your Bible, this is a way to assuage your guilt.
2) If you love romance, this is one of the best romances ever.
3) It's true.

So, here's the story of Ruth.

Ruth was a young widow who decided to follow Naomi her mother-in-law to Bethlehem because there was a famine in the land where they lived. Naomi had recently lost her husband and, feeling very bitter, thought she would be better off relocating. She and Ruth got to Bethlehem at the beginning of the harvest, and no sooner had they settled in than Ruth decided to go in search of work.

She went straight to the field of Boaz, who just happened to be Naomi's relative. Boaz came in to inspect his field and his eyes lit on Ruth. "Who is that?" he asked. When the other workers told him who she was, he invited her to have lunch with him. How many of us have been invited to lunch with the boss on the first day? That evening when Ruth told Naomi where she'd worked that day, Naomi began to hear wedding bells. When the harvest came to an end, she instructed Ruth to put on her best clothes and go down to the threshing floor where Boaz would sleep after threshing wheat that night. Ruth obeyed her mother-in-law, and the rest, as we say, is history.

I'm not going to tell you the whole story because I want you to read it for yourself. But, like all romances, it does have a very happy ending. Ruth's story is the story of every believer. Boaz represents Jesus Christ and Ruth represents us, His bride. Ruth was a Moabitess, a race of people who were outside the covenant of God. We were Gentiles, outside the covenant of God. Just as Boaz redeemed Ruth and made her his own, just so Christ has redeemed us and made us His own. Isn't that beautiful? Read the story for yourself. You will fall in love again. Happy Valentine's Day.

For a limited time, you can learn more about Ruth and other women of the Bible by purchasing my book Women For All Seasons from the Amazon Kindle store for just  $2.99 cents. Or, if you prefer the print copy, go to

Sunday, February 08, 2015

If God Be For Us: A Black History Moment

English: Frontispiece to Phillis Wheatley's Po...
English: Frontispiece to Phillis Wheatley's Poems on Various Subjects... Русский: Филлис Уитли, портрет из сборника её стихов. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Today, in honor of Black History month, I'd like to honor Phyllis Wheatley, the first published African American woman and the second African American to publish a book of poems. Phyllis was born in Senegal in 1753, kidnapped at the age of 8 and brought to Boston on a slave ship named Phillis, after which she was named. Phyllis' fate could have been similar to that of other slave girls - work, suffer cruelty, and die a slave. Or, if you were brave and lucky enough, you could run away, eventually gain freedom and marry a former slave.

However, Phyllis's life demonstrates that if God be for us, who can be against us (Romans 8: 31). Phyllis was not a healthy girl, but she had a brain. When her mistress, Susana Wheatley discovered this, she did not allow Phyllis to be trained as a servant. Instead, Phyllis received lessons in theology, English, Latin and Greek. She was also taught ancient history, mythology and literature. Education of a slave was definitely not the norm at the time. Slaves who happened to learn to read and write did so under risk of being severely punished. To have her slave owner provide the means for Phyllis's education was nothing short of God's providence. 

Phyllis was treated as a member of the family, and at the age of 12, published her first poem. Other poems followed, and in 1772, she completed her first and  only book of poems: Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.  However, Phyllis was not accepted as a poet by the colonists in Boston and had to appear in court to prove that she had indeed written the poems. After careful examination, the panel conceded that she was indeed the author and wrote an attestation which was included in the preface of the book. Susana Wheatley encouraged Phyllis to journey to London where she published her book and received widespread acclaim. 

Here's an excerpt from one of her poems:

Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic dye."
Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

The Battle Is Not Yours

Thure de Thulstrup - L. Prang and Co. - Battle of Gettysburg - Restoration by Adam Cuerden.jpgWars appear to be an unending factor in the world we live in. Even in biblical times, battles were fierce and frequent. The Bible tells us that it's only when Jesus returns that wars will cease. The same is true in our own lives. No sooner have we come out of one battle than another one faces us.

In 1 Samuel 17, we read of a young lad named David who slew the giant Goliath. At that time, the Israelites were about to do battle with the Philistines. Among them was a nine-foot giant named Goliath who terrified the Israelites with his great size and his taunts. David inquired what would be the reward for the man who killed Goliath. King Saul heard of David's inquiry and sent for him. The king tried to dissuade David from going up against Goliath, who was not only a giant but had been fighting since his youth. But David replied, "The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (v 37).

We must notice a few things about David's approach to this battle:

1. Saul dressed David in full battle gear, complete with sword and helmet, but David took them off because he was not used to them. Beware of trying to fight your battle with someone else's armor. Know your strengths and your limitations.

2. Goliath ridiculed David, saying, "Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?" (43)  David replied, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty" (v 45).  That was the key to David's victory over Goliath. He didn't go in his strength alone, but in God's strength. The Bible tells us, "we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8: 37).

So, whether your Goliath is addiction, relationship issues, illness, debt, whatever it is, you can learn from David's strategy. Don't depend on someone else's strength, and go in the name of the Lord.  May God bless you.

Friday, January 16, 2015

When Others Try To Discourage You

Do you sometimes feel discouraged? Do you feel that no matter what you do it may never be enough? That
your spouse, children, boss, co-workers, friends will never be satisfied? They will always look for ways to belittle you or put you down? As a writer, I often feel discouraged when I query an agent or editor, after putting forward my best effort, and never receive an acknowledgement. Or when I do, it's followed by a "No, thank you." No matter how many times it happens, rejection still stings.

I imagine that must have been the way Moses felt when the people of Israel grumbled at him in the wilderness. They had been under tremendous oppression from Pharaoh for four hundred years and had been crying out to God for deliverance. But when He finally delivered them through the hands of Moses, the Israelites sought every opportunity to complain. It began when they neared the Red Sea and saw Pharaoh and his army pursuing them.

 "Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness" (Exodus 14: 11-12).

But God parted the Red Sea so the Israelites were able to cross over on dry land. Then when they had all crossed over, God sent a wind to blow the sea back and cover up the Egyptians. The Bible says, "And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses" (15: 31). 

However, the people soon returned to complaining and disobeying God, and their journey lasted forty years instead of days.
Moses tried his best to be a good leader, but no matter what he did, the people were never satisfied. On one occasion, he became so angry he struck the rock when the people complained they had no water to drink. But despite his discouragement, Moses continued to do what God had called him to do. He served the people, and God, well.

We can all learn from Moses' example. He did not get to enter the promised land, but God took him up into the mountain and showed it to him. Then Moses died and God buried him there. What an honor! We are told that  "Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated" ( Deuteronomy 34: 7).

Whatever may be causing you discouragement, remember this: your success does not depend on anyone but yourself and God. Keep on serving and honoring God and He will honor you.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What Are Your Values?

 Everyone has values. A child may value his toys, a teenager his plug-ins, a woman her beauty, a man his

strength, physical or otherwise. As Christians, we are held to a higher standard than the rest of the world. Even when we are unaware, people are watching us. So what are those values, principles, teachings we should live by? I think there are three overriding principles that should guide us in living the Christian life.

1. Faith in God. The Bible says, "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11: 6). Therefore faith encompasses everything. Abraham showed faith when he followed God's command to take his son Isaac up to the mountain to sacrifice him. But an angel of the Lord restrained him and provided a lamb instead for the sacrifice. And God deemed him righteous because of his faith. Throughout the Bible there are stories of men and women who displayed great faith. In speaking of these men and women, the writer of Hebrews says, "Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions" (11: 33).

2. Love. As we grow in Christ, we should pray that we learn to love others as He loved. In the sermon on the mount Jesus told His listeners, "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5: 43 - 44). 

The apostle Paul explains it this way: "If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.   Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth" (1 Corinthians 13: 1 - 6). 
 Love encompasses everything.

3. Righteousness . Man is by nature unrighteous, corrupted by sin, but through God's love we are made righteous through the blood of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5: 20). The Pharisees were self-righteous; they obeyed the law rather than following the teachings of Christ. They were haughty, proud and boastful, believing that their works would get them into heaven. But Ephesians 2: 8 tells us, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- "  

A new year is as good a time as any to reexamine our values. What are yours? Do you value things more than you value people, or the One who created all things? Ask the Holy Spirit to help you reevaluate yourself this year and show you the areas where you are lacking. Then surrender those areas to Him and watch Him make the necessary changes in you.  God bless.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Reflections Of 2014

As the year closes, it is customary to look back on the past months at the things that impacted us and the
world around us in some way.  And in case we forget something, we can always count on the news media to remind us. So as I watched a quick recap of highlights of 2014 on CNN, I couldn't help thinking how much we need Jesus in our day and age. Let's look at a few events, in no chronological order, that kept us riveted to the screen.

The Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 with 227 passengers and 12 Malaysian crew members that disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia to Beijing Capital International Airport. Despite the combined effort of many nations and despite being the most extensive and expensive search (reportedly over AU 52 million) in aviation history, there has been no confirmed sighting of debris from the missing plane. Where is it? Only God knows.

This, along with the Ray Rice scandal, the Bill Cosby rape allegations, the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, increased persecution of Christians by terrorist groups, police shootings in the US and the resulting protests, made 2014 a bumper year for depressing news. Is 2015 going to be any different? We have to wait and see. But through it all, we can be assured of one thing. Despite the increasing darkness in our world, the light of Jesus Christ continues to shine. In fact, the darker it gets the brighter the light. Now, if that isn't comforting I don't know what is.

Happy New Year!